I-TEAM: 10 months & $36K later, mayor & DCPS at standstill over active shooter security contract

Mayor Lenny Curry’s office brokers deal with security contractor, but school officials use other training for campus safety

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The shooting on the campus of a Nashville Christian school that resulted in the deaths of three students and three staff members is again raising concerns and questions about school safety.

In June, shortly after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers, Jacksonville’s mayor and school superintendent announced an investment in a private security company that would train all Duval County Public School staff members. The deal also included the company doing surveys of campuses with suggestions of how to make schools safer.

Ten months later — and on the heels of another mass shooting at a school — the I-TEAM has learned that the training and assessment that was already paid for still hasn’t happened. Armoured One has made it clear it intends to do the work as agreed upon and it hopes to provide their full services to make schools safer.

When city and school leaders announced they’d bring in a company for training and assessment, there was a lot of hope it could stop a school shooting in Duval County. We found records showing the city spent more than $36,000 in taxpayer dollars to pay for the services, but the district hasn’t moved forward with the company.

PREVIOUS STORY: City, DCPS announces partnership with company specializing in security doors, glass

DCPS leaders said Tuesday they want to make it clear that they are doing school shooter training, and they are taking steps to protect schools. It just hasn’t been with this contractor.

We showed surveillance footage of the 28-year-old school shooter at the Covenant School in Nashville to Tom Czyz, the CEO of Armoured One.

“There are solutions out there that would have stopped the shooter in the tracks between window film and security glass. There are products out there that would have kept the attacker outside the building,” Czyz said.

The former SWAT officer who founded the New York-based security company that specializes in protecting schools arrived in Nashville on Monday night to study what went wrong.

The I-TEAM previously visited to their headquarters where they manufacture and test glass and film to slow down a shooter. While it’s not bulletproof, it’s hard to breach, and the company says it gives students and staff inside time to run and hide, and it gives police time to get to the scene and stop the attack.

Czyz tells us in the case of the Covenant School, the school had a tint film, which was no match for the shooter’s high-powered rifles.

“People believe that if you have a locked door that it’s going to keep someone out,” he said.

We put Armoured One’s film and glass to the test — and even after we shot through the top-grade, more-expensive products, it took a long time and a lot of effort to get through, and Czyz believes in this case it would have made a difference.

RELATED: Attack-proof? I-TEAM tests technology, tactics used by company hired to make Duval County schools safer

“You saw in the surveillance footage that you’re showing that shooter shooting into the building would have injured or killed no one. The shooter’s goal is to get to the classroom and get to where the students are to kill. And the purpose of the product is to keep them outside of the building or outside of a classroom,” he said.

On June 1 — after the Uvalde shooting — Jacksonville leaders including the mayor, city council and the superintendent of schools announced a contract with Armoured One. To start, it would provide online training for all DCPS staff and the company would do campus evaluations to look for weak points.

The city contract shows the deal was quoted at $199,650. A company grant, and scholarship knocked that price down significantly to $36,300, paid for with the mayor’s contingency fund.

Document obtained by News4JAX.

The city provided this document proving tax dollars paid for those services, and it left the door open for infrastructure improvements in the future.

Ten months later, DCPS has not used Armoured One’s services beyond that initial news conference.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s office issued a statement that reads:

“The City of Jacksonville and my administration have provided everything needed to take the first steps in implementing the comprehensive and proven program provided by Armoured One. The next step is full cooperation from Duval County Public Schools in understanding the urgency of initiating and assisting in facilitating the training needed and continued support of safety recommendations and modifications to the current protocol within our public schools.”

“There’s still a relationship there and we’re waiting on Duval County really to step it up between glass security and through the training that they need to be ready to go, to be prepared, God forbid, something like this happens,” Czyz told me Tuesday on The Morning Show.

Lobbying firm Ballard Partners represents Armoured One, and at the time, some brought up a potential conflict of interest as managing partner Jordan Elsbury is Curry’s former chief of staff.

DCPS leaders point out that they do extensive training up to state standards. We were invited to one of those drills over the summer.

DCPS sent me a statement that reads:

“We have vetted the Armoured One offer provided by the city. We found their services to be similar to training and assessments we already have in place. Each year, teachers and school staff members must be trained on each school’s safety plan, and active shooter training is already part of those plans. However, we do plan to provide the Armoured One online training as part of our optional curriculum, and we are currently working with the company to upload that training into our systems.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.