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School safety chairman: Guardian training under scrutiny

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The chairman of a state school safety commission says the panel will take a close look at contracts public schools have in place to train school "guardians."

The spotlight on the contracts comes after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission learned that Palm Beach County school officials hired a private company to train armed school guardians for charter schools in the county.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, chairman of the commission, sent a memo to other members of the panel on Wednesday, saying Boynton Beach-based Invictus failed to properly train the guardians. While Gualtieri called the Palm Beach school district's contract with Invictus an "anomaly," he told The News Service of Florida the panel will explore the matter further to ensure shoddy training does not take place in other parts of the state.

There is "no indication that any similar agreements are in place anywhere else in the state," Gualtieri said in an interview after his memo was released Wednesday.

"This seems to be an anomaly, which is good, because this is an example of why it should not be done this way," he said.

Among other shortcomings, Invictus had unqualified instructors and "graduated" guardians who had failed shooting tests, Gualtieri wrote in the memo.

And, according to Gualtieri's memo, the private company failed to train guardians for the required 144 hours mandated in state law.

The company also "graduated" armed school security who failed to achieve the required 85 percent score on firearm training, the memo said.

Gualtieri pledged that the panel would call on state lawmakers to "make unequivocally clear" that safe school officers can only be trained by a Florida sheriff, and not private companies.