Security measures heightened in local districts following deadly shooting at Texas school

Northeast Florida school police chiefs says this is out of an abundance of caution

Due to the massacre at a Texas elementary school, several school districts in our area are making some changes for the rest of this week. Police chiefs for local districts say these changes are out of an abundance of caution.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the wake of a shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed more than a dozen children, at least three Northeast Florida school districts will be increasing security measures on their campuses as the school year comes to a close.

Duval County

Greg Burton, the chief of the Duval County School Police Department, notified families of students of the heightened security in a message Tuesday evening, saying the move was made out of an abundance of caution.

The school police chief said in the message that there will be no backpacks or large handbags allowed for the remainder of the week at any public school in Duval County. Small purses will be allowed but will be subject to search.

Burton noted that in addition to the armed police or security officer staffed at each of the district’s schools, “all of our leadership officers will be at schools for the remainder of the week, and we have asked other law enforcement agencies in the area to be especially vigilant around our schools.”

In addition, Burton’s message reminded people to report any threats to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

And he offered his condolences to those affected by Tuesday’s mass shooting.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families whose lives have been forever impacted by the events in Texas today,” he wrote. “While their loss is heavy on my heart, we remain steadfast in our mission to keep students and staff safe.”

Below is the entire message sent to DCPS families:

“Hello Duval County Public Schools families, this School Police Chief Greg Burton calling.

“Words cannot describe the feelings we have here at the district as we see the tragedy unfolding today at a school in Texas. While we are deeply saddened, we also want to make you aware that we will be increasing our security measures at all schools for the remainder of the week in an abundance of caution.

“Effective immediately, there will be no backpacks or large handbags allowed at any Duval County public school this week. Small purses will be allowed but will be subject to search. Repeating: There will be no backpacks or large handbags allowed at our school for the remainder of the week. Small purses will be allowed but will be subject to search.

“I remind you that all of our schools are staffed with an armed police or security officer. In addition, all of our leadership officers will be at schools for the remainder of the week, and we have asked other law enforcement agencies in the area to be especially vigilant around our schools.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families whose lives have been forever impacted by the events in Texas today. While their loss is heavy on my heart, we remain steadfast in our mission to keep students and staff safe. In closing, I also remind you that school security is a partnership. If you see or hear of a threat to our schools, please inform us or the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office immediately. Thank you for your assistance, and I look forward to a safe and secure closing of our school year. Good bye.”

Friday is the last day of school for Duval County.

In the wake of a shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed more than a dozen children, the Duval County school district will be increasing security measures on its campuses.

Clay County

Clay County District Schools Police Chief Kenneth Wagner also shared a similiar message Tuesday evening for parents, students and faculty there.

He stressed that there is no direct threat to Clay County schools, but as a precaution, they have partnered with Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the Green Cove Springs Police Department and the Orange Park Police Department to up security measures and law enforcement presence on campuses for the rest of the week.

Wagner reminded people: “If you see something, say something.”

He also offered “heartfelt condolences” to those in Uvalde.

Below is the entire message sent to Clay County school district families:

“Parents, Students and Faculty of Clay County District Schools:

“We are deeply hurt by the tragic events which unfolded today at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all involved.

“Clay County District School Police want to make you aware that there is no direct threat to any Clay County School. However, out of an abundance of caution, we have partnered with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the Green Cove Springs Police Department and the Orange Park Police Department to increase security measures and police presence at all schools for the remainder of the week.

“School Police will be readily available to answers questions. And, as a reminder, if you see something, say something! You can contact any school official or send a tip through the Saferwatch app.”

Friday is the last day of school for Clay County.

St. Johns County

St. Johns County Superintendent Tim Forson sent a message to parents on Wednesday, explaining that security will be heightened for the remainder of the school year.

Below is the entire message sent to St. Johns County school district families:

Dear Parents, Staff and Community Members,

It is heartbreaking to be writing to you today about the tragedy of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tx. This horrific act incites fear and insecurity in us all. I am so appreciative of the partnership that exists between the school district and our local law enforcement agencies, the St. Johns Sheriffs Office and the St. Augustine Police Department. Our schools are safer due to their support and expertise and our collaborative relationship.

This is a message that I never want to deliver especially during a time when we are celebrating the amazing accomplishments of our students. We will have increased presence of law enforcement in and around our schools as we close out the school year.

Friday, June 2, is the last day of school for St. Johns County.

Paul Abbatinozzi, Senior Director for School Services in St. Johns County, joins us to discuss safety precautions at schools and the work to keep our students safe.

About the Authors:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.