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Volusia County school guardians in training feel weight of protecting students

It's 'in our DNA to protect,' Sheriff Chitwood says

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Frank Hayward, a former corrections officer, knows he'll make an excellent armed guardian for an elementary school in Volusia County.
 
"I just thought it was something I could do and do well," said Hayward, adding that he quit his job last week at Stewart- Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare to start training for the guardian position.
 
"I don't need this job, I want this job," Hayward said. "We're here to be school guardians, going to elementary schools and see that our kids are protected while they're attending schools."
 
Hayward is one of 20 people in the first Volusia County school guardian class, but a total of 49 candidates are in training. All are former military, law enforcement or both.
 
"You see that connection and it's just something that's in our DNA. There is this thing to protect," Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
 
On Monday, Hayward said the class learned about firearms, part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
 
"Learning how to handle the weapons, take them apart. You can't respect a weapon too much," Hawward said. "You put a weapon on, I've carried one for years but when you put one on, it's such responsibility."
 
The class will then take what they've learned and practice on the shooting range on Wednesday. Instructors said the candidates must make 85 percent of their shots.
 
"We did one heck of a job here. The school board cast a wide net. I think what you have here is people that have a passion to protect teachers and students, based on their background, and I think we're going to be very successful with this program," Chitwood said.
 
The program includes 132 hours of training, 12 hours of diversity training and extensive background checks, all before this school year begins.
 
"You have rules you have to follow and that's one of the things we're learning now, is all the things we need to know to be prepared. I don't want to see what's happened in the past happen again," Hayward said of the Parkland high school shooting in February where 17 were killed.


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