Lee County Schools could join other districts using the ‘Guardian Program’

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida changed the ways schools operate when it comes to security. After that shooting, the Guardian Program was forced to protect students on school campuses by training its current staff to carry firearms at school.

Currently, there are 45 counties in Florida that are a part of this program. Lee County could be the next district on the list.

The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 sparked huge changes in school safety. One of those changes is adding a school resource officer (SRO) to every building on every public school campus. Another change was training and arming school employees and staff to stop a potential school threat.

Melisa Giovannelli is a member of the Lee County School Board. “What’s the price of safety? I don’t think we can put a price on it. I think it’s important to enhance our SRO programs,” Giovannelli said.

Board member Giovannelli asked for the Lee County School Board to reconsider Florida’s Guardian Program in order to help SROs protect students. She says Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno is on board with this idea.

The school district’s safety and security executive director, David Newlan, has concerns about the program. “My big concern of using employees already in a position at district… is… it doesn’t, to me, if you’re going to be a guardian your sole responsibility should be a guardian,” Newlan said. “Just because you passed that initial 144 hours of training, does not make you qualified.”

Other school board members say they think the SROs are more than enough. Mary Fischer is a Lee County School Board member. “I’m a lot more comfortable with our professional law enforcement being there and the ones to respond,” Fischer said.

Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan is also a school board member. “If we were to explore anything it would be the security people that we have. I’m not frankly, at this point, interested in doing more than that,” Morgan said.

The school board rejected the idea directly after the Parkland shooting. The only district in the WINK News viewing area to adopt the Guardian Program is Hendry County Schools. Right now, in Hendry County, they have five trained guardians in buildings, along with SROs. There are also 10 people interested in joining in that county.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
Writer:Drew Hill
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