TAKING THEM SERIOUSLY

School shootings and threats have communities on edge and at odds
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM
Volusia County residents protest outside of Tuesday night’s school board meeting in DeLand.
Residents, parents, retired educators, retired law enforcement and more flocked the Volusia County School Board meeting on Tuesday night to discuss school safety.

More than 30 people from across the county came to speak, primarily about the county not arming teachers with firearms. The school board only discussed current safety measures in place.

Volusia and Flagler County schools have had a total of 30 in- cidents relating to guns and gun threats since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead.

More threats
On Wednesday, two more Volusia County school students were charged with criminal threats to a school as two 13-year olds were arrested at Deltona Middle school after reports of suspicious activity. Many of the threats came via social media.

Erica Gardener didn’t attend the meeting. However, as a parent with a son at Spruce Creek High in Port Orange and two others at Turie T. Small Elementary in Daytona, she is concerned.

“I’m concerned. I don’t think that they should arm teachers. I do think that those with licensed firearms should secure their weapons from their kids. They should also know their children’s mental state to see if they are close to going off the edge and would resort to using a gun for violence,” she said.

Concerned mom
Tenesha Swanson told the Daytona Times she is watching developments. She has a daughter at Mainland High and son at Hinson Middle.

“I’m always concerned about my children’s safety, and I feel if we entrust teachers with educating our children and they are trained to teach, how can they not competent enough to be trained to carry a firearm?”

She added, “Yes, they should have the ability to be armed or a least some administrative staff. They should only be able to use their firearm during a shooting.’’

Possible solutions
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the public brought up possible solutions such as whether to arm teachers or not, secret tunnels, making security like airports and courthouses, better funding of resource officers, giving police radio frequency access to teachers, installing more law enforcement, better student evaluations of mental health, programs for troubled kids, and documenting troubled kids to law enforcement.

Law enforcement ensures the public that they are doing all that they can.

The Daytona Beach Police Department participates in the Safety Resource Officer program, which puts a law enforcement officer in schools. Originally, the sheriff’s office presented it, but now more police departments are involved.

The police department has an officer in all 10 schools inside its city limits – from elementary to high school.

No joke
Law enforcement takes all threats seriously.

“I think there are kids being immature who don’t understand the gravity or magnitude of the situation. They are just playing around. Now, they are seeing that we aren’t playing and they are being arrested,’’ said Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri. “We’re taking every threat seriously. Whoever makes any pranks will be held accountable. This isn’t nothing to joke about.’’

Always training
Law enforcement has measures in place and always train.

Capri stated, “We haven’t changed much. We have always been preparing, planning and training for the worst and preparing for the worst. You think of strategies to combat this stuff,” Capri continued.

“We’ve had a cop in every school for the past three years. You get police engaging students and building relationships, which is a preventive measure. The idea is that kids tell cops what’s going on and you have a way to handle such situations. We train our entire staff. We even put more cars in the area after shooting.”

Capri said he does support arming teachers.

“Yes, I do, only if it’s on a volunteer basis, only properly extensively trained. You have to do background checking. We should also look at retired military and police who just want to volunteer even those with grandkids in the schools. Don’t mind walking the halls armed. It’s just another option.”

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