Resource officers to visit elementary schools

Student intervention one of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti's concerns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As Duval County elementary students returned to school Wednesday, some saw security on duty.

Full-time resource officers are already at all middle and high schools, according to the spokeswoman for Duval County Public Schools. These officers will now visit elementary schools daily.

"Right now, they're mainly positioned in our high schools and in our middle schools. We're looking at them serving more time at the elementary schools; not permanently, but to be more visible in our elementary schools as well," Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said.

There are 183 schools in Duval County; 104 are elementary schools. The Duval County Public School Police Department says there are roughly 75 officers, with usually only one assigned to a middle school or high school.

What's unclear is how many officers are needed and how long they'll stay at each elementary school. School officials said the point is to make their presence known.

"Placing one in every elementary school right now would not happen permanently. It's just more visible, expanding the role of those officers right now," Vitti said.

The shooting deaths in Newtown, Conn., last month also prompted the Duval County School District to tweak its emergency and communication plans.

"The level of responsibility and burden to making sure our children are protected is extreme, and it hit hard for me the day it happened, but not a day goes by where I don't think about 'what if?' and we have to do more and more," Vitti said.

Hulda Miller was a little nervous about her granddaughter going back to school Wednesday after what happened in Newtown.

"It makes you wonder what people are thinking, and you never know what they're thinking," she said.

But increased security on campus helped put her at ease.

"Just the visible appearance of them is going to make a big difference," Miller said.

Some parents and grandparents, however, say it's not enough.

"The only thing is, they said they would just show up occasionally at the school, and I think maybe they should hire more of the (school resource officers) to be there on a permanent basis," said Linda Lavorgna, whose granddaughter is in elementary school.

Student intervention is one of the superintendent's biggest concerns.

"When we're seeing students that are struggling, that are showing signs of frustration, anger, we are intervening as a school district and as a school to ensure help is provided," Vitti said. "We have to become more proactive with identifying the red flags that go up with certain student behavior or being more vigilant regarding visitors coming to the school, not properly checking in. And those are some of the procedures that we are certainly working on and going to enhance."

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