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LCS implements guardian program to increase security on campus

LCS - Leon County Schools
Posted at 7:24 PM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 19:24:19-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sparked an increase in safety across schools in Florida.

The guardian program was part of legislation passed two years ago.

Leon County School District just implemented it this school year to have as an addition to their existing school resource deputy program.

"The guardian is specifically trained to protect the campus and everyone on it from intruders who have bad intentions," Leon County Schools Coordinator of Safety and Security Jimmy Williams said.

The district has ten guardians hired.

They're only going to be used for elementary schools to keep the school resource deputies mainly focused on middle and high schools.

"Many of them are retired military, former police, former EMS, fire professionals," Williams said. "We put a ten-year minimum work experience as one of the stipulations for the background of our guardians."

Guardians are different than School Resources officers because they have "no authority to act in any law enforcement capacity."

They're employed by the school and resources officers are employed by the local sheriff's office.

There are 45 sheriff's offices throughout the state that provide the training, including Leon, Wakulla, Gadsden, Franklin, Taylor, Madison and Jefferson.

"An applicant has to already possess an armed security license through the state of Florida," Jeff Yarbrough, Public Information Officer Wakulla County Sheriff's office, said.

They've trained six guardians so far for their school district, Yarbrough added.

Guardians have to go through at least 144 hours of training. In WCSO's course, they do 150.

The certification includes shooting instruction, defensive tactics, active shooter and assailant scenarios.

Each person also must pass a psychological evaluation, drug test, ongoing training, weapon inspection and firearm qualification on at least an annual basis.

Once the training is complete, it can be used throughout the state.

"It's the same way as a law enforcement certification," Yarbrough said. "Once you get certified as an officer you may go through an academy with an individual agency and go through their tactics and procedures but your certification is good state-wide."

Some school districts allow their guardians to take additional roles as teachers or coaches.

Leon County specifically has its men and women tasked with one job.

"To protect our students, to protect our teachers, our staff and our visitors on campus," Williams said.

The Leon County Sheriff's Office said they have 22 school resource deputies working in LCS schools.

The program is the oldest in the state with a 40-year partnership.