COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - Following Friday's tragedy in Connecticut, a group of Collier County teachers are asking Superintendent Kamela Patton to take a look at what they call "serious holes in security" at one local elementary school.
Teachers at Lely Elementary School sent a two page list of security concerns to Dr. Patton. They include training for substitute teachers for an emergency and questions about what to do if something happened in the cafeteria during lunch time. But, their biggest concern is the fact that Lely Elementary doesn't have a full time deputy at the school.
Terry Clark is a 5th grade teacher at Lely Elementary School. He feels there are serious holes in security when it comes to protecting students. "I think a lot of parents would be surprised to know the Youth Relations Deputy (YRD) at Lely Elementary is spread out between three schools," says Clark.
WINK News found parents were surprised. Meredith Wilson, the mother of a second grader at Lely Elementary said she didn't know the deputy wasn't at school full time.
Shawna Millett, a mother of a kindergartener at Lely Elementary says, "I figured there were deputies here all day."
According to Sheriff Kevin Rambosk Collier County has 45 Youth Relations Deputies. There are 50 schools in the county.
According to Clark, Lely's designated deputy splits time between Lely, Parkside and Everglades City. Terry fears what could happen when the deputy is gone.
"Nobody knows how Newtown would have changed by having a police officer there. No one knows, but without one you have zero chance of protection against this and with one, at least you have a chance," says Clark.
In a statement to WINK News, the Collier County School District wrote: "Deputies service all of our schools. With this 35 years of experience, law enforcement has learned how to best allocate resources across the district to meet the districts needs."
The school district also decided to add principals and teachers to the existing safety committees. "I thought it was safe," says Millett. "I do feel it is safe, but I would feel more comfortable if there was someone here during all school hours."
The Youth Relations Program is fully funded by the Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Rambosk said in a statement to WINK News: "While there is a cost to providing all law enforcement services, that will not deter us from safeguarding our schools."
Below is the full Q & A with Sheriff Kevin Rambosk:
WINK NEWS:How are Youth Relations Deputies distributed throughout the school district as far as elementary, middle and high schools?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: The Collier County Sheriff's office provides on-campus service to all schools, both public and private, in the county.
WINK NEWS: How many schools does each YDR get assigned?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: Public release of the specifics of our security plans would seriously jeopardize our students, school staff and deputies. Due to the tactical nature of these assignments, I believe that parents, students and school district employees would feel it is not appropriate for me to provide a response to this question.
WINK NEWS: Do you, as Sheriff, feel more security is needed at our schools? Do you think a YRD should be at every school during school hours?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: CCSO has a lengthy history of and commitment to providing safety and security in our schools. Our cadre of Youth Relations Deputies continuously train in tactical responses to school violence situations, updated on mental health issues and the majority of them are certified in critical incident training (CIT). We have prepared tactical training videos and actual training to youth relations bureaus all over the state. In addition, we regularly review response protocols in partnership with the committee referenced in Question 4. It is also important to add that anytime there is a tragedy such as the one that unfolded last Friday in Connecticut, this committee reviews the incident in detail to identify any possible ways we can enhance safety in our schools.
WINK NEWS: I understand a new committee has been formed. What is their primary focus? What will be discussed? Is there a time frame of when any sort of decision will be made?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: There is a long-standing safety committee that is a strong partnership between the Collier County Sheriff's Office, the Collier County School District, the Marco Island Police Department and the Naples Police Department. The committee establishes and reviews policies, procedures and response protocols designed to provide the highest level of safety possible at our schools. The committee will review the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary to determine any potential ways that school security can be enhanced in Collier County.
WINK NEWS: Is funding an issue as far as having more YRD's at schools?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: Collier County is unique in the state in that our Youth Relations program is 100 percent funded by the Sheriff's Office. Keeping in mind that we have just emerged from one of the most severe economic recessions in our nation's history, I have remained committed to providing youth safety and youth programming in Collier County. While there is a cost to providing all law enforcement services, that will not deter us from safeguarding our schools.
WINK NEWS: How many YRD's do you have on staff?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: We have 45 Youth Relations deputies in our schools. In addition, they are supported by other deputies assigned to our Youth Relations Bureau. I also encourage all of our members to engage with our schools, such as random checks and even eating lunch with students in the cafeteria, to increase the law enforcement visibility on campus whenever possible.
WINK NEWS: What can you say to teachers and parents in the district regarding their concern that the schools are not always being watched?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: With the community's support we have created a proactive and progressive program incorporating a culture of high visibility, a focus on tactical proficiency and positive interaction with students. In partnership with the school district, the Naples Police Department, the Marco Island Police Department and other first-responders, we have plans in place in the event of an emergency.
WINK NEWS: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SHERIFF RAMBOSK: School safety is a community issue. We have one goal as a community: to keep our students and school staff members safe. As a community we want to provide our students with a great learning environment and a safe learning environment.
Below is the statement from the Collier County School District:
"For 35 years local law enforcement agencies have supported our students and schools by providing law enforcement officers on our campuses. They service all of our schools. With this 35 years of experience, law enforcement has learned how to best allocate resources across the district to meet the district's needs. We are very fortunate to have such high visibility of law enforcement officers on all of our campuses.
Collier County Public Schools and local law enforcement agencies have a 35-year relationship of holding regular meetings and training sessions regarding school security. We will take our existing safety committees and expand them to include principals and teachers. Since Friday's occurrence Dr. Patton and Sheriff Rambosk have been in direct contact with each other, beginning early Saturday, to review security plans and procedures. The district then met first thing Monday morning, again directly with law enforcement officials, to review existing safety plans and procedures, to determine any further needs or enhancements. We are very fortunate to have this longstanding support of local law enforcement agencies. Most school districts do not have the good fortune to have the level of support of law enforcement from which we benefit in Collier County Public Schools. We know there are school districts in Florida with upwards of 200 elementary schools that have NO law enforcement presence at all. In addition to providing security, the education and relationships fostered by the deputies with both students and staff add yet another dimension to overall security."