Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy said he is considering using private security guards to safeguard some of the county’s elementary schools this year, a turnaround from earlier assurances that every school would be staffed by a law enforcement officer.
The potential change of plan comes after Sheriff Ric Bradshaw rebuffed Fennoy’s request to provide 50 overtime deputies to patrol dozens of elementary schools in the sheriff’s office’s jurisdiction.
Under a new state law passed after the Parkland school shooting, every public school must be guarded by an armed safety officer. The county’s high schools and middle schools are already patrolled by school district police, but administrators are rushing to find ways to staff the 107 elementary schools.
The school district says it won’t be able to hire enough of its own officers to cover those schools this year. Eleven city police departments tentatively agreed last month to provide officers to cover about 47 elementary schools within their city limits.
That left uncovered another four dozen campuses in the sheriff’s office’s jurisdiction, which includes the unincorporated county and several cities and towns.
Bradshaw said he cannot spare 50 deputies throughout the school year on an overtime basis. And Fennoy rejected Bradshaw’s request for a one-year contract to hire new deputies dedicated specifically to the elementary schools.
After weeks of back-and-forth, Bradshaw announced Friday that he would provide the school district with 10 overtime deputies but rejected the rest of the request, potentially leaving the school district with about 30 elementary schools for which it needs to find armed guards.
If the school district does look to private security guards to patrol some of its schools, it won’t be alone. Pinellas County’s public schools have announced plans to use armed security guards to comply with the new law, and a majority of Broward County’s school board last week supported doing the same in some elementary schools.