Volusia County, FL – At its Tuesday meeting, the Volusia County School Board (VCSB) discussed several proposals to increase school safety such as hiring armed “school marshals” at each of the County’s elementary schools.
The proposed program ensures each school marshal receives 132 hours of firearm safety and proficiency training, 12 hours of diversity training and continued training once per year. School marshals will also be held to weapon inspection requirements. School marshals will train for five days, serve each school day of the year (180 days) and will be scheduled for school-related events if necessary.
All armed staff will undergo criminal background checks, drug testing and psychological evaluation conducted by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. After the initial test, armed staff will be tested for drugs randomly and will undergo additional psychological evaluation as needed.
Teachers will not be allowed to serve as school marshals and the individuals chosen for the positions will not have the power to make arrests. The VCSB said they want fill school marshal positions with former military veterans and former law enforcement officers.
Rough estimates indicate that each marshal will cost the VCSB between $30,000 and $60,000 while each armed law enforcement officer will cost the VCSB between $89,000 and $94,000.
The VCSB explains that the School Marshal Program will not replace School Resource Officer contracts with the Ormond Beach, South Daytona, Daytona Beach or Deland Police Departments, nor will it replace School Resource Deputy contacts with the VCSO. In fact, the School Board is asking to increase the VCSO contract by four SRDs.
“I’ll be unequivocally clear that Volusia County Schools would prefer municipal police officers and sheriff’s deputies,” said James T. Russell, Superintendent of Schools.
The following chart outlines the “haves” and “needs” of the County regarding the number of SROs and SRDs on campus:
(Chart courtesy VCSB)
The School Board also made some other recommendations to increase school safety. These recommendations can be found below:
(Chart courtesy VCSB)
Actions have been taken to improve fencing, entry control systems, and camera systems. Plans for these projects can be found below:
(Chart courtesy VCSB)
Several School Board members and officials also expressed concerns about costs and responsibilities.
“Part of it is viewed as just a school issue or a school board’s [issue] as a whole,” said Ida D. Wright, the VCSB’s District 2 member. “It is not a school’s issue, it is a society issue. And if we don’t address it as a society issue, we’ll never have funding. I don’t care what we do, we don’t have the money for 44 more people.”
“This is to mitigate the loss of life and to deter students from doing this,” said Greg Akin, Chief Operating Officer for Volusia County Schools, said in response to Wright. “It takes every person. Every student, faculty member, parent, community, grandparent, aunt, uncle – whoever – to identify the students that have some concerns and get them the help they need and be able to resolve these issues. And, you’re right. At some point in time, we can put all the bells and whistles in and it’s not going to prevent it. We’ve got to go back to prevention, which is human behavior changes.”
“Parents have to get involved,” Akin continued. “They have to start searching the child’s backpack, the bedroom. Know their children. Look at their social media on the phones. That’s where it kind of starts.”
“Is it possible that we could send a letter out to all the municipalities requesting their participation in some way?” said VCSB Chair Linda Cuthbert. “Whether its a sub, recommendations – a line item in their budgets for the coming year. Even if it’s $10,000. Every little penny helps. Everything helps and that would be their contribution to [school saftey]. And its true – it is a society issue, it is a community issue.”
The VCSB plans to have identified the number of marshals needed and to have identified a district School Safety Specialist by July 1. By August 1, the VCSB wants to complete a security risk assessment and by September 1, the VCSB wants to identify a threat assessment team at each school.
At the start of the school year, the VCSB wants at least one school safety officer hired at each school, putting it in compliance with a state law passed earlier this year. Throughout the entire year, staff and students will receive active shooter training and will participate in active shooter and hostage situation drills.
The VCSB agreed to revisit the proposal for approval at its nect meeting on June 12.