SARASOTA - Many parents on the Suncoast may be a bit anxious about sending their kids back to school in light of Friday's tragedy. But the man who oversees security for Sarasota County Schools tells ABC 7 that the district is prepared for the worst.
Scott Lempe, the Chief Operating Officer for Sarasota County Schools says there has never been a gun discharged in any of the district schools for as long as he can remember. He credits local law enforcement and others in the district for that.
He is however, mortified by the events Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. “My first reaction, as a father -- I have two daughters who went to public schools their whole life -- I see these kinds of things and hurt for the families, the parents and wonder how do you even begin to deal with something like this.”
We asked Lempe if he had any sort of message for the parents on the Suncoast when it comes to the kid’s safety at school. “Security for me is one of those things that is never perfect. You ask yourself, have you done all of those things you can to prevent something like this happen? I will always worry about security at schools, knowing that it will never be perfect. But I am comfortable on a daily basis that we put our energies in those places that make the most sense. I think the event is tragic, it’s heartbreaking, we feel for the parents and the families. And I guess what I’d like for the families and the citizens of Sarasota County to know is that we work tremendously hard every day to make sure that our kids come to school, and while at school they are absolutely as safe and secure as we can make them.”
Lempe admits elementary schools in Sarasota County do not have School Resource Officers -- unlike the middle and high schools -- but he remains comfortable with the security at all 24 public elementary schools in the county, saying the buildings are safe and secure, and not easy for strangers to access.
Manatee County School officials are also assuring parents that their children's schools are safe and policies and procedures are in place to protect students and staff. The principal of Bayshore Elementary saying right now, everyone is trying to absorb the information, and stay calm. “We do have all of our emergency plans in place. We have drills on a continual basis. The teachers are prepared for the worst, should something like that happen, and again we try to keep everyone calm, that's first and foremost our priority. We try to make sure we're ready for anything,” says principal Annette Codelia.
We sent our reporters to Bayshore Elementary in Bradenton. Here's what some of those parents had to say.
“It makes you worried, it makes you wonder if they are prepared for something like that to happen here and what they would do.”
“Devastating…I was so sad, felt so terrible for the parents of all the children and everyone involved anybody that was there. And it was elementary school, so they don't even understand what's happening.”
“Every parent would be obviously concerned about hearing something as tragic as that, so I think that a lot of parents would be concerned like that. So I think a lot of parents are worried about the safety of their children.”