Northeast Florida county breakdown of district responses to arming teachers

Counties differ on safety plans, agree more officers are needed for schools

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Arming school employees with guns has been a hot topic of conversation since the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. 

News4Jax has been gathering information from Northeast Florida counties on how our district leaders feel about having school personnel carrying concealed weapons and how they plan to keep students safe.

All the Jacksonville-area districts agree that more school resource officers are needed and that at least one officer should be assigned to each school.

They also agree that mental health needs to continue to improve by adding more guidance counselors, mental health counselors and social workers at schools.

Here's what else we've learned:

Duval County 

Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis and at least two School Board members have openly opposed the idea of arming teachers.

School Board Chairwoman Paula Wright said the Duval County School Board Police Department meets with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on a weekly basis to ensure that students are kept safe.

She said she hopes teachers will never be armed in Duval County, which includes more than 100 schools.

St. Johns County

Superintendent Tim Forson, who oversees dozens of schools, does not support arming employees at schools.

Forson said each high school has at least 100 cameras on campus, and school officials decide where, when and by whom those cameras are monitored.  

The idea of arming teachers was not addressed at the most recent School Board workshop. 

The district has discussed an emergency operations plan, a district crisis management team, safety teams, training and drills.

Flagler County

Sheriff Rick Staly and Superintendent James Tager said the only people who should be armed at the county's nine schools are law enforcement officials.

The district does plan to double the number of school resource officers protecting schools. 

The county will ramp up from six sheriff's deputies to 13 deputies working full-time as school resource officers. This will allow for one deputy to be assigned to each elementary and middle school, two to each high school and one supervisor to float between campuses.

Putnam County

Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach and Superintendent Dr. Rick Surrency announced a program called STAR, which stands for the Sheriffs Trained Armed Response program, that would involve people who work in the schools serving as special deputies.

The volunteers would go through extensive training, psychological screenings, drug screenings and background checks, and their weapons would be concealed to students and fellow staff members. 

The volunteers' status as special deputies would only be known to the sheriff and superintendent.