Hillsborough County school board members vote down armed guards in elementary schools

TAMPA - Hillsborough County school board members not only voted against putting armed security guards in all elementary schools across the county, but they also voted against spending $1.2 million dollars to secure unsecured district facilities and using $10,000 of contingency funds to put toward crisis management training.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia made it known following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that she hoped to hire, train and put 130 armed security guards on duty.

The guards would not replace school resource officers and deputies already staffed, but be added to the schools' staff.

The extra security would have cost $2 million, which would have come from the state's contingency fund. 

Next year, those costs would have doubled, and $4 million would come from the regular school year budget.

"At this time, there is not additional funding from Washington and Tallahassee, although there may be.  At this time, our projection is that we'll be funding the program," said Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia last week.

Issues with affordability was a point of contention among board members.

"I don't want to drop $4 million without a thorough analysis," said Dr. Stacy White, board member.

Some school board members called the plan a knee-jerk reaction to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  Dr. White asked his colleagues to postpone voting on armed guards until proper studies can be done and there is more public input. Board members voted any way.

In a 4-3 vote, board members decided to spend $8,500 on security consultant Michael Dorne, a school safety expert.

"We can never put a price tag on the lives of our students or employees," said Doretha Edgecomb, board member.

Board members did agree to hold a workshop relating to school safety.  Once the workshop takes place and further discussion is had, the issue of armed guards could be revisited.

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