New Legislation Requires Armed Protection at all Schools
Few school districts in Florida had armed officers at the doors of their schools until the February 14 attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Now districts in Florida are struggling to meet the new mandate that requires armed protection at all schools.
A recent survey of Florida schools found that all schools will be covered as doors open later this month, but most of them are having issues finding the funding to cover such armed officers, or enough applicants to fill the positions. Many have resorted to supplementing law enforcement officers with armed civilian security guards, including, in some situations, school staff members.
The Florida legislature budgeted $165 million to offer at least partial coverage of the increase in security costs, but then proposed cuts to education spending. The National Center for Education Statistics showed that in 2016, some two-thirds of high school and middle school campuses had an armed police officer at least part time. Only about one-third of elementary schools have guards.
But having an armed guard doesn’t always guarantee safety. Ten people were killed in May at a Texas high school that had two school security officers who exchanged fire with the shooter before he surrendered.
The deputy at Stoneman Douglas didn’t even confront the shooter that ultimately took 17 lives that day. The school district is now facing lawsuits from the families of the 17 victims, as well as 17 additional people who were injured during the shooting. Other students bearing psychological trauma have also filed claims against the school district.
Most schools that do have protection contract with law enforcement agencies to employ security. An experienced officer can cost as much as $100,000 annually in salary, equipment, and benefits. Staffing increases due to the new legislature can be as little as two in a small district to as many as several dozen in a large district.
While some districts are hiring actual law enforcement officers, others are supplementing with staff and civilians. Those additions receive 132 hours of training and must score high on a state firearms test. Florida also allows teachers to carry a firearm.
Schools and Your Child’s Safety
Schools are required to follow strict state and local rules for protecting your child. While they can be immune from some civil lawsuits, they can still be subjected to state and city laws and lawsuits. If your children attend a public school and one of them was injured because a school failed to protect them as required by law, the attorneys at Leifer & Ramirez may be able to help.
Public schools are required to provide a safe environment for students under their supervision, and when they fail to perform within the expected realm of care requirements or act negligently, they could be liable for losses and injuries. Contact us today to schedule a consultation if your child has been injured at school.