As Hillsborough County considers a $4.1 million proposal to add 130 security guards to its staff to cover elementary campuses, Pasco is taking a softer approach.
That, however, doesn’t mean the issue of enhanced security in local schools is off the table.
“I will be meeting with our law enforcement agencies soon to explore the options that might be explored for Pasco County,” Superintendent Kurt Browning wrote in an email.
Like Hillsborough, Pasco provided a law enforcement presence at elementary schools in the days following the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children, ages 6 and 7, died when an armed gunman stormed the campus. Six adults and the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also perished.
Unlike Hillsborough, however, Pasco did not continue the increased security measures following the winter break. Students returned to classes Jan. 8.
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While the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has assigned deputies to elementary schools as a stop-gap measure for the rest of this school year, Pasco has taken a different approach.
"Road patrol deputies have been told to patrol the zones around those schools as their time permits," sheriff's office spokesman Kevin Doll said during an earlier interview.
Pasco has never had resource officers in all of the district's elementary schools, Doll said, but there used to be six that rotated between them, "until the school board cut that funding years ago."
Further cuts to funding in recent years have tightened things up even more, Doll said.
"The school board used to fund 50 percent of the salaries of the SROs that we currently have in middle schools and high schools, but in recent years they have cut that also, so now the sheriff's office funds the majority of our SROs from our budget."
Browning did not elaborate on when the meeting with law enforcement would take place or what options might be explored.
Opinions are Mixed
The idea of increasing security on Pasco elementary campuses has been met with mixed feelings by parents and Patch readers.
New Port Richey Patch fan Dave Bennett wrote this on Facebook in answer to the question of whether Pasco should follow Hillsborough's lead:
Yes of course in every entrance of all the schools.
However, Jennifer Eichenberger said:
It's an hysterical overreaction, and I have news for you--security guards are not that well trained with weapons. Yes, they get training, but unless a person uses them often in the discharge of their duties, we may as well have no one at the door AND it could even be more dangerous, since they may overreact and shoot someone who isn't even a threat. I don't know what the answer is, but it is not setting up schools like maximum security prisons.
What do you think? Are Pasco’s elementary schools safe? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Stay with New Port Richey Patch for updates as they become available.