Offbeat Florida Program Arming and Training Civilians to Battle School Shooters

02:06  14 june  2018
02:06  14 june  2018 Source:

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Judd’s solution to America’s school shooting epidemic? Arming teachers. “This whole idea that we can train civilians to carry concealed weapons is absurd. According to Judd, the Sentinel Program is “the last, best solution when the shooter shows up, when everything else has failed.”

a man sitting in front of a mirror posing for the camera © Getty

The sheriff’s office in Polk County, Florida, is training a troupe of armed “guardians,” or regular civilians, to protect students during the upcoming school year—a program that some critics find troubling.

“Formal officers trained to specific standards should be the law enforcement presence in schools if there’s going to be one,” Secure Schools Alliance Executive Director Robert Boyd told The Daily Beast. “You don’t just take anybody and put them in a school, particularly with a firearm.”

One of the masterminds behind the program, Sheriff Grady Judd, is an unabashed gun-rights supporter—and an outspoken critic of illegal immigration, among other hot-button issues. He was one of 12 sheriffs to meet with President Donald Trump, whom he’s called the “best ally” of law enforcement, in February.

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The training center is housed at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and offers numerous Originally designed for police and fire agencies, the civilian version is now being expanded to schools to allow teachers and other school personnel to train for active shooters alongside first responders.

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Judd insists the civilian guardians will be well-trained—and more cost-effective than school resource officers. Potential guardians must complete background checks, psychological evaluations, and drug tests during the training process, according to the Polk County’s Sheriff Office. Over 500 people applied for the program, but only 150 people made it to the training portion, Judd told News 6.

“The guardian receives 25 percent more firearms training than a certified police officer in the state of Florida and has to qualify five points higher than a certified police officer,” Judd told the outlet.

The guardians will “provide security to our campuses, conduct necessary drills, oversee crime prevention initiatives and programs with students, conduct surveillance and other security-related tasks,” a Polk County Sheriff's Office spokesman told News 6.

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Officials in Florida ’s Polk County announced a voluntary program to train and arm teachers last week. In Idaho, an individual school district launched a voluntary program training educators to use rifles owned by the district in the event of an active shooter situation.

Participants of the program, which is helmed by instructors who train deputies and SWAT team members, are required to complete 144 hours of “intensive tactical training.” Only 91 people will graduate and become an official guardian in July.

Those who make the cut will be paid $30,000 yearly, with most of their salaries being covered by the $67 million set aside to to train armed school resource officers and other staff members as part of a law passed in March after the Parkland high school shooting.

“When we get the 911 call [that] there's an active shooter on campus, the destruction is already underway, that's why you have to have school guardians on the campus,” Judd told News 6.

The Polk County sheriff, a recent NRA TV guest, has made several provocative, head-line making statements about guns—and encouraged residents to arm themselves for self-defense. In 2017, he told his community, “If you’re not afraid of a gun, get one... And if you need to shoot somebody, shoot them a lot,” according to Fox 35.

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When a SWAT team shot at a suspect 100 times after he killed a sheriff and a K-9 dog in 2006, Judd quipped, “That's all the bullets we had, or we would have shot him more,” the Orlando Sentinelreported.

Polk County Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd told The Daily Beast that the school board and the sheriff’s office worked together to create the program.

“The guardian program was created to make sure we have someone in our schools—mainly elementary schools—that don’t currently have school resource officers,” Byrd said. None of the teachers in the school district will be armed, she added.

Byrd admitted that Polk County School Districts faced some pushback from parents. “At the end of the day, they’re sending their children, and we want to make sure we put someone there for the safety of those students,” she said.

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