FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. - Flagler Palm Coast High School seniors Will Patin, Katia Martynuk and three other students decided to take responsibility for helping protect their classmates, teachers and school.
"This is your safety and your life, so take a stand in what you believe in and actually start something instead of waiting for someone else to," Martynuk said.
They understood they could help law enforcement by providing critical tips and information that law enforcement might not otherwise get from students.
"You hear the phrase, 'If you see something, say something,' and a lot of times you hear students kinda make threats that you don't know if they're serious or not," Martynuk said. "And so, if students can always tell administration when they hear something, because in most of school shootings somebody knew this was going to happen, somebody heard about it, somebody told me, I overheard them say that. So if they always went to administration with that kind of information, it would make our school a lot safer."
The FPC mascot is the bulldog, so the students call themselves the "FPC Bulldog Patrol."
In September, they asked their fellow students where they think the problems are in school security.
Based on the feedback they received, the five students decided to use a drone to monitor the campus from the air.
Anthony Bennett, an FPC sophomore, flies the drone.
"Say we're trying to get a view of the football field we're standing at from up above. I can take my drone and fly 200 feet in the air and pan my camera down, and I can see something that I can't be able to see standing on the floor," Bennett said.
They're making a video to play for students teaching them how to react wherever they are on campus.
Student Justin Cestard is editing it.
"The motto always is 'A shooter doesn't care about a schedule, doesn't care where you are, in lunch, in class change,' and that's what this series of videos is meant to be," Cestard said.
They put together some 200 first aid kits or, as they call them, survival kits, and store one in each classroom.
They taught teachers how to use the kits.
They were even ready to pay for a K-9 unit until Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly offered to give the school its own K-9 and deputy.
"They can do so much more than people can," Martynuk said. "They can smell drugs, or weapons or explosives or whatever it is they are searching for. They can take someone down."
The team of five said the most important component of the Bulldog Patrol is enlisting the eyes and ears of the entire student body.
"This project is really about changing the culture of our school. It's more than just a safety plan. We have to get everyone on board with it," Patin said. "We can't ever get complacent on something like this. We can't ever feel we've accomplished the goal."
The students said they are overwhelmed by the positive reaction.
"The reception from everyone in our community has been really, really cool to see because this project is coming from students wanting to do something about the safety of schools and it's not coming from an administrator or the state or the district," Patin said. "That's one of the reasons we're getting so much support and success -- because so many people realize students are taking action for it."
Martynuk said she believes the patrol could save lives.
"Well, when I first started I didn't think it would get as big as it did -- just get K-9s and call it a day and that's where it would end," Martynuk said. "And it's been kind of amazing that we're actually making some kind of difference in our community."
The students said the Desoto County School District has expressed interest in starting its own patrol and is seeking advice on how to get started.
Martynuk said the patrol would be happy to share information.
She hopes to leave a legacy long after she graduates and expects the Bulldog Patrol to continue for many years.
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