A new program in Florida is hoping to provide security to school districts that cannot afford to pay for armed guards.
What’s the background?
The program trains ordinary people how to stop potential attackers. School safety “guardians” from the program will undergo intensive training to be eligible to work in Polk County, which has 85 elementary schools.
Former teacher Kimberly Hall said that she joined the program to become a guardian because she thinks that the current situation is unacceptable:
I’m tired of hearing teachers having to give their lives to protect students. You are here to teach our students. You now can rest assured, that if somebody comes on this campus or any of our campuses, that we are going to be there to engage. You will not have to. We will run to that threat while you take care of what you need to.
The current crop of guardians-in-training come from all walks of life. In addition to former teachers like Hall, former police officers and a minister have signed up.
The program is named after Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach killed while protecting students during the attack on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter, Meadow, in the Parkland massacre is also involved with this program.
“These kids are going to be safer for now, from what I accomplished and hopefully, the rest of the country is going to see what we did in Polk County and they’re going to lead by example,” Pollack told CBS News.
What makes these armed guards special?
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who helped create the program, said that the training level these guards were receiving was more than sufficient: “These folks are starting as civilians but when they finish their training, they’re going to be better trained with more hours and a higher proficiency than a state certified police officer.”
In addition to background and psychological tests and a six-week course, the candidates will have to take tactical and written tests. Candidates will have to score high on those exams to be eligible to be certified as a school guardian.
They’re also more affordable for the schools to hire. These guards will be agreeing to work for only $30,000 per year. Costs that low make the guardians an option for schools that may not otherwise be able to afford to hire school resource officers.
Are there any critics?
Of course. Some parents are concerned about any guns being in schools — even in the hands of trained professionals.
Annette Rising, a parent with a child in a Polk County school, told CBS News that she would be “a little anxious” dropping her daughter off at school if she knew that anyone was armed on the premises.