As of this week, 14 people had passed screening and training to become armed “school safety assistants” in Duval County’s elementary schools. The problem? More than 100 were supposed to be ready the first week of school to comply with state law.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will be paying its own officers overtime to patrol schools until enough safety assistants are trained. State law says all schools have to either have sworn officers or trained "Guardians" which the school distrct is calling safety assistants.
The school district is paying the assistants $12.50 an hour after deciding sworn police officers in elementary schools would be too expensive.
But on Thursday, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said he expects to see the school district pay back every dime for the officer overtime until enough of the armed guards can be trained.
“We’re going to need this council’s support to support us in demanding that we get reimbursed because 12 bucks an hour doesn’t buy one of our JSO officers,” he told the city Finance Committee.
After more than 100 safety assistant applicants were disqualified during screening, there’s still been a 58 percent failure rate among those who have made it to training administered by JSO, according to Sheriff Mike Williams.
The current training class started with 28 members and is down to 11, he said, with more training sessions on the schedule through the end of the year.
The safety assistants are being hired to comply with a state mandate for armed people in every school following February’s mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Duval County already has sworn police officers who patrol high schools and middle schools.
Photo used under Creative Commons license.