GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – A stunning statement was made Monday by the Clay County sheriff, who said he’s open to arresting any local elected official if a new law to fund security in all public schools changes and officials don’t find funding to do it.
It came after a Clay County School Board meeting Monday afternoon, during which board members and Sheriff Darryl Daniels spent several hours discussing how to pay for new school security.
Clay County could be $1.8 million closer to finding funds needed to put a resource officer in each of the county's 44 schools, but according to Daniels, that still leaves the county millions short.
The Clay County Commission has already offered to give the Sheriff's Office that money from capital improvements to help pay for school security. That, plus roughly $1.5 million in funding from the state, gets the county almost halfway to the goal.
Daniels said his agency needs $4.5 million to cover the staffing and equipment costs associated with having an SRO in each of Clay County's schools. This year, the Florida Legislature made that Florida law. Daniels said the law doesn't include penalties for county commissions or school boards that don't comply. If it did, he said, he'd be willing to enforce it.
"If they’re violating the law, it doesn’t matter what their job description is; I wouldn’t even hesitate," Daniels said after the school board meeting.
Clay County School Board Chairwoman Carol Studdard, who said she was literally begging the County Commission for more funding, was stunned when News4Jax told her about the sheriff's statement.
"Oh my goodness," Studdard said. "We’re all going to work together. Nobody’s going to be arresting the School Board, I don’t think."
But the County Commission's $1.8 million, which still needs to be voted on, would be a one-time allocation, and even combined with the state's money, it leaves the county millions short of what the Sheriff's Office needs.
Daniels had planned to hire 30 new deputies, beginning Tuesday, so that they could be trained and ready before the school year starts. But he has put that plan on hold as the county looks for ways to come up with the rest of the money.
Daniels said that any new hires who don't have previous school resource officer experience will not be assigned to schools but will instead replace veteran deputies who will be reassigned to work as SROs.
“I think we have a clear vision in reference to what we have to do as a school district,” Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis said. “I know we’ll have to look and see what additional reserves we have or what additional revenues we can generate to make this happen. We will be prepared for day one in Clay County. We stand confident by that.”
Monday's meeting adjourned without finding all the money, but officials plan to meet again next month to continue searching for funds.
School district officials will be attending the County Commission meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, during which commissioners will vote on the $1.8 million in funding. The meeting will be a step toward developing a final funding plan that will be voted on in May.
All members of the School Board have said they support putting an officer in all county schools. The School Board will have its own meeting in May to vote on the final funding proposal for staffing officers at 44 schools.