While the discussion continues at all levels of government across our nation as to the best way to reduce gun violence, a Florida mom has effected change in her child’s school by paying for an armed School Resource Officer (SRO) for the final two months of the school year.
While debate continues, and likely will for months if not years to come, between Democrats and Republicans as to the causes of mass violence (Democrats continue to focus on guns as the problem and move forward in their pursuit of new gun laws, Republicans argue that the deeper issue is the mental health failures of our society in identifying those most likely to commit acts of violence) Laura Lauria of Flagler County, Florida has taken the proactive step of paying $22,000 for a SRO for the remainder of this school year at Old Kings Elementary, the school her daughter attends.
Lauria has paid the Flagler County School District in advance for the cost of a deputy to staff the school through March 14. She made a "verbal commitment" to pay for the deputy for the rest of the year after that, Superintendent Janet Valentine said.
"I don't know how you say no to such a wonderful gesture," Valentine said Monday.
Flagler County already pays six deputies that patrol the three high schools and two middle schools. The school district pays for four of the deputies at a cost of $286,572, and the Sheriff's Office and the city of Palm Coast each pay for one. The cost is $32 per hour, per deputy.
Unlike the other deputies that are assigned to specific schools for the year, Old Kings does not have one full-time deputy. Instead, deputies agree to take the special shift on top of their regular duties. As a result, staff and children do not see the same deputy every day.
Elementary schools had deputies until 2008, but they were eliminated due to budget issues. Flagler officials have discussed hiring deputies to patrol the county's elementary schools but say the cost may still be prohibitive. Valentine said Monday she may take a proposal to the School Board early next month that would place deputies at all of the elementary schools.
"We really have had an outcry from the community that they would like to see (deputies) at all the schools and understandably so," Valentine said.
"I think it's commendable that someone is willing to put up her own money to secure the children at the school, but I think it should be done at every school," said Sheriff Jim Manfre. He went on to say that a security guard's role is "one-dimensional," and he'd rather to see school-based deputies that can serve as role models and talk to children about topics like the dangers of using alcohol and drugs.
A Sheriff's Office spokesman said Lauria funded the deputy through her police supply company, Police Services Inc, a private manufacturer of safety minded products.
The Sheriff's Office does not have the money in this year's budget to pay for deputies to patrol the elementary schools but he said he hopes to split the cost "50-50" with the school district beginning next school year.
Principal Nancy Willis said staff members are "really thankful" for the additional security. "I think it's very good for our students and our employees and I feel like they will feel much safer with a deputy on campus," she said.
Press Release from Flagler County Schools
To Whom It May Concern:
In the wake of the tragic Connecticut shooting, Laura Lauria, President of Police Services, Inc., reached out to Flagler County School Board representatives in order to determine whether security could be increased at the elementary schools across the district. Although Flagler County currently provides deputies at middle schools and high schools, no such service presently exists at the elementary school level due to a lack of funding.
When it became apparent that funding was the primary obstacle in achieving greater security, Mrs. Lauria made the decision to donate the funds that were necessary to provide a trained, off-duty Sheriff's deputy at Old Kings Elementary. Mrs. Lauria sought the approval of several high-ranking school officials before making this donation and worked in conjunction with the proper school and law enforcement authorities every step of the way.
Police Services, Inc. is a private manufacturer of safety minded products and has no financial ties to Flagler County schools.
Police Services, Inc. does not buy, sell, or manufacture weapons, nor does it provide security services. The donation was never intended to become public knowledge and was only made with the intention of giving back to the community.
Laura Lauria and Police Services, Inc. are both ardent supporters of the Flagler County school system and will continue to respect any decisions made by the School Board regarding the implementation of additional security.
Administrative Assistant to Superintendent Janet Valentine
Lauria released a statement on Tuesday:
"When it became apparent that funding was the primary obstacle in achieving greater security, Mrs. Lauria made the decision to donate the funds that were necessary to provide a trained, off-duty Sheriff's deputy at Old Kings Elementary," according to a statement released by Lauria's legal team. "Mrs. Lauria sought the approval of several high-ranking school officials before making this donation and worked in conjunction with the proper school and law enforcement authorities every step of the way."
The donation was never intended to become public knowledge and was only made with the intention of giving back to the community," the statement continues "Laura Lauria and Police Services, Inc. are both ardent supporters of the Flagler County school system and will continue to respect any decisions made by the School Board regarding the implementation of additional security."
While politicians continue to use the Newtown tragedy to push their ideology and argue their viewpoint, the issue for parents is security-not pro/anti gun arguments. Those issues will be debated for years to come, but in the meantime securing the schools is the number one priority. There can be no question that the only response to an armed intruder intent on doing violence is a person that is also armed and prepared to stop them.
It is commendable that a private citizen has stepped up to provide protection for all the schools children, but it is a sad comment on both our society and our government that it is necessary for a private citizen to take this step.