State asked to fund SRO program

OKEECHOBEE — At its Aug. 1 meeting, the Okeechobee County School Board signed a resolution on school safety in regard to School Resource Officer (SRO) funding.

The resolution calls on the governor of Florida and the state Legislature to fully fund all costs associated with assigning an SRO to every school in the state.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Okeechobee County School Board members hold the resolution they signed at their Aug. 1 meeting calling on the State of Florida to fully fund the mandated School Resource Officer (SRO) program.

State lawmakers passed a mandate shorty after the 2017 shooting in Parkland requiring every school to have an SRO on campus, but didn’t fully fund the measure, leaving school districts and local governments scrambling to cover the sudden increase in costs.

Currently the school district shares the costs of the SRO program with the county and city.

Also on the agenda at the Aug. 1 meeting was a motion to approve an advertisement to amend board policy on school security in regard to the guardian program. The new policy will remove the exclusions for teachers to become a guardian and clarified that guardians won’t be able to keep their weapon in their desk or another space in the classroom but will be required to have it on their person at all times.

Before the school board voted on putting the new policy out for advertisement, they heard a public comment from Okeechobee resident Adam Cohen who was in attendance at the meeting.

“I have two kids in the school system, one in the sixth grade and one in the ninth grade,” began Mr. Cohen. “Our politicians who write these laws feel like they are valuable enough to have armed guards;so do our judges who enforce the laws. Our kids are worth that same level of protection. I think the SROs are awesome, but one person can’t secure a campus. SROs are excellent but guardians are the next best thing we have. We moved here from Parkland. My daughter was in lockdown in the middle school while this murderer was running around. I wished the teachers there had a gun. I encourage you to continue what you’re doing. Thank you for going in this direction. Okeechobee has done much more than Parkland has done to secure their schools. It’s night and day.”

All board members approved the motion to publish an advertisement to amend school district policy. A final vote on the issue will be taken at the school board meeting on Sept. 10.

“We have to do what’s right by our community and not be concerned with what’s happening outside our community,” said board member Malissa Morgan. “This is our home; these are our children. I’m very proud of our board. As a former teacher, I would want the option to stand in front of my children and protect them. I wouldn’t want to stand there helpless.”

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