Education

After Parkland, Miami-Dade schools adding more security personnel — armed and unarmed

A Miami-Dade Schools Police K-9 unit responds to an incident at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School in February 2016. The school district plans to hire 20 additional schools police officers to increase security on its campuses following the Parkland shooting.
A Miami-Dade Schools Police K-9 unit responds to an incident at Frances S. Tucker Elementary School in February 2016. The school district plans to hire 20 additional schools police officers to increase security on its campuses following the Parkland shooting. Miami Herald file photo

The Miami-Dade school district plans to deploy 100 additional unarmed security guards to elementary schools and K-8 centers as part of an ongoing effort to bolster defenses following the Parkland school shooting.

The district is also hiring 20 new armed school resource officers and partnering with the county government and various municipalities to increase the law enforcement presence at schools.

The security measures, announced by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at Wednesday’s School Board meeting, are the latest in a series of steps the school district has taken since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, which killed 17 people and injured 15 others.

The district has already deployed additional school resource officers to middle and high schools to ensure that every secondary school has a police presence, Carvalho said. In addition, the district has reduced the number of entry points at each school and directed teachers to keep their classroom doors locked during the day. Secondary schools are also in the process of requiring staff and students to wear school-issued IDs at all times.

“The fear and anxiety in the minds of parents needs to be met with our willingness to listen, to deploy and to ensure the safety of our schools, our children, and those who teach them every single day,” Carvalho said.

Some School Board members expressed reservations about paying for 100 additional unarmed security guards, which is estimated to cost the district roughly $1 million, as opposed to using the money to hire more school resource officers, who carry weapons.

But Carvalho stressed that the security guards are a “temporary stopgap measure” until the end of the semester and said it was “logistically impossible” to immediately put a police officer at every school, in part because of the time it takes to find and hire qualified candidates. However, in light of the School Board members’ concerns, Carvalho said the district would be willing to “reassess” its plans.

Students returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, two weeks after a deadly school shooting that claimed 17 lives. Students talk about their first day back and the healing process they are taking as su

By the start of the 2018-19 school year, the district plans to have a police officer — either a school resource officer or an officer from a local police force — stationed at every school, Carvalho said, which is in accordance with a new state law that addresses school safety.

School district administrators have already met with the mayors of the ten largest cities in Miami-Dade County and plan to meet with more local officials in the coming weeks to discuss mutual aid agreements to bolster school security.

Florida’s new school safety law, which Gov. Rick Scott signed in early March, provides $400 million in funding for mental health services and school safety as well as to replace the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High where the shooting took place.

The Miami-Dade school district hopes to use the state funding to hire roughly 100 additional school resource officers as well as to harden school defenses by installing automatically locking doors and taking other measures, Carvalho said.

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