Principal now carries gun at Jacksonville charter school

San Jose Academy and Prep was first to sign up for guardian training

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The principal of San Jose Academy and Preparatory High School in Jacksonville is trained, armed and ready to defend his students and staff.

When the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act passed last spring, the charter school's board voted to join the guardian program, and principal Alan Hall was the first to sign up for training. He's now completed 144 hours of training with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and hopes that experience, along with new safety measures, will keep his 350 middle and high school students safe.

"I’ve always had the leadership style (that) I’m not going to ask somebody to do something I’m not willing to do, so what better way to fully know how somebody’s going to be trained and what they’re going to be trained to do if I hire someone to do that job than by me going through it myself," Hall said.

Hall and a second school employee completed their training on Friday. He hopes others will do the same. 

Aside from having two trained guardians, Hall said the school has added more security features, including having each employee wear a lanyard with a panic button they can press in case of an emergency.

"The school automatically goes into lockdown, the system is tied into (the JSO) Zone Three command," Hall said. "It cuts down on response time."

Another safety measure installed over the summer is new classroom door locks that require someone to have an ID with a key to be able to open them.

"I think it’s a great program and, unfortunately for charter schools, it’s really our only option they left us within the law," Hall said. "So our board and myself, we took it upon ourselves to try to be out in front and get it behind us so we can move forward with the rest of the school year."

With more new safety measures, trained guardians and a full-time on-campus mental health therapist, Hall is feeling confident about the safety of his students.

Public schools in Duval County are using dedicated school safety assistants rather than guardians trained from existing staff. Safety assistants are uniformed security personnel whose sole job is to monitor, patrol and protect the school from outside threats. Guardians can be an employee other than a classroom teacher who has other duties at the school. They carry guns, but do not wear uniforms, so they are not visibly identified in any way.

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