‘School Safety Guardians': Polk schools hiring 90 whose main job is stopping active shooters

Safety Guardians are not law enforcement
Posted at 11:14 PM, Apr 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-25 18:21:07-04

BARTOW, Fla. — On Tuesday night, the Polk County School Board voted to hire 90 armed School Safety Guardians.

The position pays $30,000 a year plus benefits. It is not a law enforcement job and they won't have the same authority as a deputy or officer. The guardian's main job will be to stop an active shooter or any major threat on campus if the situation occurs.

"This is their sole responsibility. Teachers and staff members, they were hired to teach and they have a lot on their plate," said Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd.

The guardians must obtain a concealed weapons permit and must complete ongoing firearm training.

"If something should happen, God forbid, if it ever did, I wouldn't want somebody to look at me and say you all had an opportunity and you did nothing," said Lori Cunningham, Polk County School board member.

Students say they believe this move could make their schools safer, but the school district needs to be cautious about who they hire.

"But at the very least, we need to be heavily examining who we are allowing to take up the mantle of our children's safety and protection," said student Kala Tedder.

The program will cost about $3.69 million. The state is providing $3.3 million in Safe Schools funding. The Polk County School District will make up the $400,000 shortfall.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office will cover the cost of guardian training, supplies, and equipment for being a guardian.

The plan is in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act, a new state law passed after the Parkland mass shooting where 17 people were killed in February.

District leaders said the guardians should be in schools by August.