Armed 'school safety guardians' to be added at Polk County elementary schools

Officials aim to fill 85 school safety guardian positions

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – The Polk County School Board on Tuesday voted to develop a new school safety program that involves hiring 85 armed school safety guardians to be placed at elementary schools throughout the district.

The new measure is in line with the guidelines set by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which requires that every Florida school be equipped with an armed law enforcement officer or guardian. The act was passed after a shooting at the South Florida high school that left 17 people dead.

Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said she and other school officials agreed that arming teachers was not the answer.

“Protecting our community and schools is of the utmost importance to both Sheriff Grady Judd and myself,” Byrd said. “We are committed to ensuring the safety of our students and staff, and greatly value this partnership with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.”

The school safety guardians will be certified through the Polk County Sheriff’s Office guardian program, but because they will be district employees they will not have the authority to make arrests and they will not be considered law enforcement officers.

Each guardian will be required to undergo a background check, drug test, psychological exam and 144 hours of specialized training. Salary for the position starts at $30,000 a year with benefits.

“This is a great program and a good way to add another layer of safety and security on school campuses,” Judd said. “It is a model for other schools—it is affordable, reasonable, and our children will be safer as a result. Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd and her staff have done an outstanding job crafting the School Safety Guardian program, and we value our continuing partnership to keep our kids, teachers, and staff safe.”

Middle and high schools in the district will continue to be equipped with school resource officers.

Anyone interested in applying for the position can do so online once the job is posted on the district's website.