Seminole County shies away from arming teachers to protect students

SCPS, sheriff's office host forum on school safety

By Mark Lehman - Reporter

SANFORD, Fla. - Seminole County Public Schools held a forum Thursday to address questions about arming teachers, as well as other safety and security topics within the district.

The 2nd Annual School Safety & Security Forum was scheduled months ago, but district leaders say the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland has influenced a majority of questions from parents.

"We've been bombarded with questions about arming teachers," Superintendent Walt Griffin said.

While law enforcement in some Central Florida counties have expressed support for arming volunteer faculty and staff, leaders with SCPS and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office spoke out against the idea.

"The superintendent and I agree that teachers should not have to worry about arming themselves," Sheriff Dennis Lemma said.

District leaders said their focus is to instead have a law enforcement presence at schools.

For the last three years, every public school in Seminole County has been equipped with a dedicated resource officer.

SCPS leaders said measures were taken after the Parkland shooting to staff two resource officers in every high school.

"Our law enforcement officers across this county have trained to fulfill their responsibility to quickly engage whatever threat is there," Lemma said.

In addition to resource officers, Griffin said the school district will also use additional funding from the state to increase the number of mental health counselors available to students.

"Mental health is a big piece of what we do," Griffin said. "We can't do this alone. It's all about us working together and making collaborative decisions in the name of safety."

In 2017, SCPS became the first district in Central Florida to use a smartphone application that gives teachers and staff the ability to instantly alert first respondents during an emergency.

Makers of the Rave Panic Button smartphone application describe it as an instant line of communication between schools and police in emergency scenarios.

The app is designed to use GPS to help pinpoint the emergency, which could dramatically cut down on response time.

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