BPS deploys school security specialists
By Matt Reed
VIERA, Florida -- Brevard Public Schools has deployed 27 armed security specialists to Space Coast campuses with a sobering mission: Confront school shooters with lethal force, if necessary.
The specialists will mostly patrol elementary schools that do not have full-time school resource officers, or “SROs,” assigned by local police departments or the Brevard Sheriff’s Office. All middle and high schools have SROs to provide armed protection, as do elementary schools in some – but not all – Brevard cities.
Although they have no arrest powers, the newly hired and trained security specialists ensure that all Brevard Public Schools have armed protection against rampage shooters. That is a requirement under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, passed in response to February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“This was no small feat, and we greatly appreciate our partners in law enforcement,” BPS Superintendent Mark Mullins said a press conference Monday Oct. 15.
The specialists were carefully screened by the Brevard Sheriff’s Office, which operates school security for BPS. Then, they underwent a month of intense training, including:
· 80 hours of firearm training certified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
· 24 hours of tactical pistol training
· 24 hours of training in active-shooter scenarios, including first aid and CPR
· 16 hours of training in defensive tactics training, including how to maintain possession of a gun while in a physical altercation
· 12 hours on legal issues
· 12 hours on diversity issues
· 8 hours on mental-health issues.
“Society has changed, and we have to change with it,” Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. “The training has gone very well – in the classroom and on the range.”
The specialists will carry the same firearms used by sheriff’s deputies. They will wear uniforms but will not drive marked vehicles.
The cost of training and equipping the specialists ($863,475) was reimbursed by the state. BPS will pay annual salaries and benefits at a cost of $1.2 million.
Florida law bars the district from publicizing the identities of school safety officers and details of individual schools’ security plans. So, BPS is not listing schools to which the specialists have been assigned.
As a group, though, the first class of 26 men and one woman brings years of combined experience to the job of keeping Brevard students and school staff members safe:
· Law enforcement experience: 268 years
· Military experience: 211 years
· Security experience: 68 years
· Corrections experience: 47 years
“They will be protecting thousands of kids every day,” Mullins said.
The security specialists represent one of four “layers” of protection, Ivey said. The other layers are resource officers, active-shooter drills at schools, and voter-approved security upgrades to school buildings that have been funded by a half-cent sales surtax in Brevard.
The Brevard County School Board decided in May to hire and assign security specialists after dropping a controversial proposal to train and arm unpaid volunteers from school staffs. It reached that decision after seeking input from thousands of parents and staff members in surveys and at town-hall hearings, staff meetings and standing-room-only board meetings.