As Florida lawmakers prepare for the upcoming legislative session, a group made up of representatives from local law enforcement agencies and school officials is urging them to allocate new money to fund school resource officers for Florida's elementary schools.
The School Safety Work Group was established immediately after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators. The group is coordinated by Lt. David Lee of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office (ACSO).
One of the group's top priorities is the placement of a specially-trained school resource officer/deputy in all elementary schools in the district. Currently, there is an officer/deputy in all middle and high schools who are jointly funded by the ACSO, the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) and the school district.
"We appreciate the way local law enforcement has stepped up since Sandy Hook, and we know our parents, students and staff feel more comfortable with the officers on campus," said Superintendent Dan Boyd. "We'd like to keep them there."
In a letter to legislators, local law enforcement officials point to the many benefits of having a law enforcement presence in the schools, including prevention of bullying, truancy and gang violence. They also say officers can act as mentors for at-risk students.
"I believe there are many opportunities for deputies to have positive and meaningful interactions with children, in addition to their primary role of protection and security," said Sheriff Sadie Darnell.
The legislative session runs from March 5 through May 3, 2013.