Money still too tight to add some resource officers at schools with young children
BY JAMES HARPER
Even though Volusia County elementary school principals called for more security on their campuses last year after the Sandy Hook massacre, a local schools spokesman says this year’s Sheriff’s Office budget for on-campus deputies is the same as last year.
“They will be at our secondary schools. There are no additional funds for this purpose,” Nancy Wait, Volusia County School’s community information officer, said about school resources officers.
On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Ct.
“After Sandy Hook, we did review security at all of our schools and have tightened up our process for visitors to campuses,” concluded Wait.
Talked about it
Gary Davidson, spokesman for the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, told the Daytona Times this week that in the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook, Sheriff Ben Johnson and key members of his staff met with Superintendent Margaret Smith and her campus safety personnel to discuss issues raised by the shooting and looked at ways to strengthen security measures.
“At that meeting, there was agreement on several steps for fortifying campus security.
Unfortunately, there simply weren’t funds in anyone’s budget to add more school resource deputies to the 14 that we currently have,” Davidson said.
Davidson said school district officials indicated at the time that they were planning to lobby the state Legislature for additional funding to help pay for school security. No funds were allocated by legislators.
He added that there will be “nothing new beyond the measures that have already been taken planned for the school resource deputy program,” and no expansion beyond the current staff of 14 is planned due to budget constraints.
And though there will be no deputies at elementary schools, Davidson said there will be an enhanced law enforcement presence in and around schools that are within their jurisdiction.
After reviewing the school district ’s existing security assessments for all of its schools and identifying areas where existing security measures can be strengthened, “a number of suggestions that we made have already been implemented by the school district,” concluded Davidson.
There are no school resource officers at any of Volusia County’s elementary schools.
In an interview with the Daytona Times after the Sandy Hook massacre, Turie T. Small Elementary Principal Earl Johnson called for the beefing up of security at his and other schools “because the children need to feel safe in their schools.”
School resource deputies from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office currently are placed at high schools with some of the officers splitting their time at some. There are no full-time officers at the middle schools, Davidson added.
Because of budget cuts, the sheriff’s office had to scale back the number of officers at the schools.
Davidson said cutting school resource officers was the only option because the department had to maintain a certain number of officers for core services, patrol, investigation and security at court facilities.
28 in the past
He also said the sheriff’s office receives funds from the Volusia County Council for staffing, which means the county would have to come up with additional funds if they want resource officers at the county’s more than 60-plus schools.
At one time, there were 28 school resource deputies. When the sheriff office’s budget was cut, the department was no longer able to pay for the 14 additional officers at the schools.
There are 66 schools in the county plus another 12 charter schools. The county would need approximately 60 officers hired to make sure all Volusia schools have deputies on duty, which would cost an additional $5 million more a year.
Presently, $1 million is allocated for the 14 current officers working at high schools.
“If we are going to put education as a priority, we need to put our money where our mouth is. For our kids to be successful, our kids need to feel safe. They need to feel more secure,” said Johnson.