Local school district battling funding to meet school safety mandate

By: Alicia Turner | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 16, 2018

MGN photo

MADISON CO., Fla.-- (WCTV) It's been three months since the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The tragedy sparked change at the state level, including the new school safety law.

Tashona Mouzon, a Madison County parent said, "It's so much crime out there and I have little ones that goes to school. At the end of the day, anything can happen."

Governor Rick Scott made it clear he was hopeful the law will reduce the chances of something happening in the schools, but some districts are struggling to foot the bill.

"We don't have that kind of money," said Dr. Karen Pickles, Madison County Schools Superintendent.

The Madison County School Board told Eyewitness News it needs five additional school resource officers to meet the mandate.They're getting over $380,000 from the state, but that only covers salaries. They need $165,000 more for things like cars and other equipment.

"Where are we going to come up with this money? We're not a wealthy district, so I don’t have $165,000 just laying around, so to speak,” Dr. Pickles said.

The mandate does offer another option; a district can arm a non-instructional employee, known as a guardian. The district said if it goes that route, it's considering three SROs and two guardians. That would cut first year cost by $60,000.

Some people in the community say they'd rather see that money spent on deputies.

"We need trained law enforcement officers protecting our children,” said Madison County resident Jessica Web.

Morgan Smith said, “I think that they are the first line of protection for the schools before the sheriff's office can get there, and I think it's a good investment for the schools."

An investment the school board wants to make, but doesn't know if it can.

The school board is hoping to have a decision as soon as possible, so the officers or guardians can get trained before the next school year. The board is hopeful to have a decision at their next meeting on Monday, May 21.

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