SWFL schools beef up security and safety programs for back to school

As kids are headed back into the classroom, new safety changes both mandatory and voluntary are being added to enhance school security in Lee, Charlotte and Hendry counties.

“I have one that is five and one that is 10,” said Caitlin Ralston a mom to Charlotte County kids.

While Caitlin can keep an eye on her toddler at all times, she relies on the Charlotte County School District to keep a watchful eye on her other two children.

“I feel like they are in a safe place,” she says.

Officials are working to make sure the schools hold their end of the bargain.

Every school already has a school resource officer, something that is now mandated by the State.

Now, they are adding another seven to double up in high schools.

In addition to SROs, all 20 Charlotte County public schools will have cameras at their front doors.

“It’s like a double wall of protection for the staff and the children,” said Charlotte County School District Spokesperson, Mike Riley.

Riley says that anyone who comes in during school hours has to show photo identification outside first.

Lee County is rolling out the same security feature.

“This is probably the easiest way we can do this without making our schools into fortresses,” said Rick Parfitt who is the Director of Safety and Security with the Lee County School District.

Teachers will also be able to lock classroom doors from the inside.

“80 percent of our efforts have to be on prevention, and 20 percent have to be on response,” said Parfitt.

All 5500 school Lee teachers have gone through new training that focuses on mental health and prevention.

Charlotte schools have also taken mental health care to heart.

“Our superintendent believes strongly that this is a mental health issue and that’s the threat assessment teams to focus. It’s not to label these children but to identify a child that’s struggling, what can we do to get that child extra mental health help, while they’re still young and get them on the right path.”

This is something that Charlotte County has also taken to heart by adding threat assessment teams made up of principals, school psychologists, counselors, social workers and SROs, training them to identify worrisome behavior and react accordingly.

MORELee County installing threat assessment teams for upcoming school year

Reporter:Lindsey Sablan