The Lee County School District and the Lee County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday that schools in the county will have bolstered security by the time students return from Spring Break. This comes less than two weeks after Gov. Rick Scott signed the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” and a day after a Maryland school shooting.
Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said "all hands are on deck" at the sheriff’s office to have a school resource officer in place at every school in Lee County before students return from spring break next week.
"Currently we have approximately 60 members within our school resource [officer] program," Marceno said. "We are going to immediately increase our program by 100 members. This will allow us to place a deputy at or near every public school in Lee County."
This will now put an officer at charter schools and elementary schools. The announcement comes on the heels of the ‘School Safety’ bill being signed earlier this month. That bill came through the Florida legislature after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last month. One measure in the bill calls for increased funding for schools to bolster law enforcement presence. But Marceno said Lee County won’t wait for the funding.
“We are accomplishing this by transferring deputies, detectives and supervisors from their current positions,” Marceno explained.
It’s a temporary fix until the county gets money from the state.
Another measure in the Florida bill allows school districts to determine whether or not certain school employees would be able to be armed.
Lee County Schools’ Superintendent Greg Adkins said that possibility was discussed, but set aside.
“The sheriff's department, they're a proven entity for us. Student safety is our number one concern," Adkins said. "As a superintendent, I know I can depend on the the sheriff's department. So that's the decision that we've done here in Lee County.”
Florida Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, said that even though Lee County has opted not to arm certain school employees, other counties might use that option.
“Every school district is different. And I think that the option that has been discussed here and is being acted upon is a great solution for Lee County," Fitzenhagen said. "But it might not work in some of our more rural counties.”
Fitzenhagen said whatever choice school districts make, it’s important to keep student safety at the forefront.
The Florida legislation that allows for the increase in law enforcement personnel at schools also makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy a gun, and implements a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases. The law also provides new mental health programs for schools.