Hillsborough school superintendent unveils security plan

10:37 PM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- School security has been a priority for families and schools officials since the Newtown shooting last month.

In Hillsborough County, sheriff deputies and police officers are at elementary schools for arrivals and dismissal, and they're stopping by during the day for the remainder of the school year. But today the Hillsborough school superintendent unveiled a more permanent and aggressive plan.

Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia's plan includes what parents have been asking for: an armed security officer at every elementary school. Elia says her plan is multifaceted, comprehensive, and expensive. Despite the cost, she says it must be done to ensure school safety.

Elia says, "Children who are nervous about their safety cannot be open to learning."

To ease children and parents' fears, Elia's proposed school safety plan includes:

  • Having a national safety expert review the district's security protocols.
  • Insuring all schools have background scanners to check visitors. Right now, 10 percent of schools do not have one.
  • Continuing crisis management training of staff and student, and adding 130 armed security officers, one for each elementary school.

David Friedberg, chief for Hillsborough School Security, says, "We're looking for retired law enforcement, we're looking for retired military, young and inexperienced, that we can train."

The district will work closely with local law enforcement during the hiring and training.

Principal Dina Wyatt says her students are building a good relationship with law enforcement by having an officer on campus. "The children greet him, high five him, treat him as part of our community, our family," she says.

Parents say Elia's plan gives them some peace of mind.

Bianca Shogreen says, "We can't protect them from everything, so it does help in that I feel better if something were to happen or get out of hand. Someone is there who is qualified."

Hiring and training will start this school year as soon as the program is approved by the school board. Elia says the program will cost the district $2 million this year. The money will come out of the district's rainy day fund. Once the program is in place, Elia estimates the additional school security officers will cost the district $3.7 million a year.

The school board is expected to discuss and vote on the proposal at Tuesday's board meeting.

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