April 17, 2018 – Combining new school safety resources from the state with additional dollars from its operating fund, Duval County Public Schools is recommending staffing every elementary school with an armed school safety assistant whose primary responsibility will be to use whatever force necessary to prevent or abate an active assailant incident and to conduct perimeter and inner school checks to ensure premises are secure.
Duval’s middle and high schools are already patrolled by school safety officers. Upon approval of this new position by the School Board, school safety assistants will undergo 160 hours of training from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) and the Duval Schools Police Department. Training will include firearms qualification and candidates will be required to requalify on firearms training each year.
The plan, if approved by the Duval County School Board, will enable the district to provide a strong security presence but to do so without arming teachers and other school staff whose primary job responsibilities relate to education and school management. The new school safety assistants will be part of the district’s School Police Department which consists currently of 82 sworn law enforcement officers.
Duval County Public Schools remains committed to the philosophy that anyone carrying a gun on campus should be well-trained and appropriately supervised and directed for that purpose. Because the district has an existing police department, the district is in a good position to provide appropriate and safe security without arming existing employees who have student-focused responsibilities.
To make the plan work, the district will augment state funds received for this purpose. The district received $3.6 million in additional Safe School funding from the state. The district will propose in its budget an additional $800,000 to fully fund this new initiative. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s office also stands to receive a state grant for training and other costs.
While this represents a cost to the district, the district administration believes the cost is appropriate and necessary to keep firearms out of the classroom environment.
If the School Board approves the job description and position at its May meeting, the district will work with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to implement four training classes over the summer. Individuals who have an interest in exploring the new position will be able to see the position requirements on the district’s human resources website if the Board approves the job in May.