Putnam County School Board puts plan to arm staff on hold

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter, Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A plan to arm select employees in Putnam County schools hit a snag Tuesday when the school board voted against a task force’s recommendation to launch the “guardian” program.

The “guardian” program is a cornerstone of Senate Bill 7026, a sweeping school safety measure signed into law March 9 after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

The Putnam County School Board voted 4-1 not to accept the recommendation to allow trained staffers, who meet certain criteria and are not full-time teachers, to carry firearms on campus.

In addition to adopting the “guardian” program, the task force also called for the school district to hire three more school resource officers and a supervisor.

The 21-member task force, appointed by Superintendent Rick Surrency, developed its recommendation after meeting twice last month for a total of four-and-a-half hours.

Surrency, who backed the task force’s proposal, warned in a statement that funding for teaching and non-teaching positions could take a hit if the board pursued alternatives to the plan.

“You should be reminded that any other option approved by you will result in a recurring cost from the district’s general fund which will be over and above the safe schools allocation from the state,” he said.

The school board, which has the final say, has a workshop scheduled for May 8 to figure out what its next steps will be.

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