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Sarasota County to consider resource officers at elementary schools

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Manatee County School District has recently taken steps to add armed security guards at all of its elementary schools as a way to better protect students and staff. And now the Sarasota County School District is looking into a similar plan.

During Tuesday night's Sarasota County School Board work session, there was a discussion about school safety, and the group agreed to do some research about the possibility of adding armed security to elementary schools.

"We have School Resource Officers and School Resourse Deputies at our middle schools and high schools, we do not have that at the elementary schools."

That wasn’t always the case. Prior to 2007, all Sarasota schools had armed security. But budget concerns made officials assess the need, and it resulted in elementary schools losing their officers.

But Darrell Reyka, who is the head of security at the school district, says that doesn't mean students aren’t safe. "We have lots of layers of security, and I think they start at our school sites where we try to have a very strong visitor management program."

That visitor management program includes requiring all school visitors to sign in and then they are screened using their driver’s license. And there are more than 4,000 cameras at all Sarasota schools, which are monitored 24-7.

They also have the capability to remotely lock doors at several schools, as well as law enforcement officials who currently live on the some school property.

"If we have a residential unit on a school campus, and a law enforcement official’s residence on a campus, they are one of the first people we would call in an emergency," says Reyka.

But despite the multiple layers of security, school board officials are now exploring the option to add armed personnel to all elementary schools.

So we asked the community what they thought of the idea. “I think personally it’s a good idea, and it needs to be done in the wake of some of the incidents that we've had in recent times. It seems sad that we would have to do that, but all by the same token, with everything that has been going, on I don’t see a way around it."