Less than two weeks from the first day of school, Jacksonville charter schools are scrambling to comply with a new law requiring armed officers on campus.
During a closed-door meeting on Thursday, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and charter school leaders agreed on a temporary fix.
JSO said it will provide an armed officer at all Jacksonville charter schools until the sheriff’s office can train school employees to take over.
“There was some confusion about what the legislation was going to require,” said Wayman Academy of the Arts Board Chairman Mark Griffin.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act requires all Florida schools to have either a sworn law enforcement officer or a “safe-school officer,” which is a school employee who has received high-level firearms training.
That means the private security companies that many of the 33 charter schools in Duval County have been using don’t cut it anymore.
"The sheriff has made a commitment to school safety, as well as a commitment to the community,” said JSO Director of Patrol and Enforcement Mike Bruno. “As we get into crunch time for the schools, we’re going to provide them with the officers. And then we’ll have the funding discussions as we move forward.”
Duval County school police officers already patrol public middle and high school campuses.
JSO is training what Duval County Public Schools calls “school safety assistants” to patrol public elementary schools.
But none of those “school safety assistants” are going to charter schools.
Bruno said JSO is not sure when it will be able to open up that training to charter school employees.
Griffin said he does not know how much it will cost charter schools to have JSO officers on campus.
“Right now, we don’t know that. In fact, that was one of the questions that – we have to sort that out,” said Griffin.
So who’s footing the bill?
A Florida Department of Education spokesperson said, “This will be worked out locally between the school district and the charter schools.”
Duval County Public Schools spokesperson Laureen Ricks told Action News Jax, “Charter schools are responsible for funding its own safe school officers.”
Griffin said no one can put a price on a child’s life.
“When a child dies, when a student dies in school, as we’ve seen in other parts of the state and the country, when that happens, there is no discussion about how much it costs. It’s just about making sure our kids are safe,” said Griffin.
JSO is already going to patrol some public elementary schools at the beginning of the school year because there won’t be enough school safety assistants trained in time.
“There was some confusion about what the legislation was going to require." During a closed-door meeting, #Jacksonville charter schools and #JSO found a temporary fix to keep students safe. It's a story you'll see only on @ActionNewsJax at 6 p.m. pic.twitter.com/LQM4yY2MsA— Jenna Bourne (@jennaANjax) August 2, 2018