SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Some Suncoast charter schools already have their security plans for the 2018-2019 school year in place. Others have yet to decide.
Sarasota Military Academy has opted to go with the school guardian program, not because they don't want school resource officers in their school, but because they simply can't afford it.
SMA is one of those eight schools electing to go with guardians instead of SROs. Six charter schools in the county have yet to decide what route to take.
SMA's armed guardians volunteered for the job, purchasing their own firearms and signing up for the extensive training.
"We spoke with employees and had volunteers and god bless them for doing that," Christina Bowman, Executive Director of Schools for Sarasota Military Academy says.
Bowman believes these guardians are getting the ample training they need. However, she recognizes that they are not trained in law enforcement.
Charter schools weren't given the option of hiring a member of Sarasota County Schools' new police force, and the $24,000 SMA is getting from the state isn't nearly enough to hire an SRO.
Right now, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office is training the guardians for these eight charter schools.
"Have confidence in them," Sheriff Tom Knight said. "They're trained by us. I'm signing off on them to make sure they're trained properly."
The guardians are not teachers. They are "non-instructional staff", such as principals, secretaries and guidance counselors.
Each guardian is going through 144 hours of training. 80 hours of that is firearms instruction. They also have to pass a psychological exam and drug test.
In Manatee County, according to the sheriff's office, not one charter school has asked them for an SRO or training for a guardian. So it appears those schools still haven't made up their minds yet.
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