THE ISSUE: Safety agreement for our schools.
OUR OPINION: Make the deal happen.
Parents want and expect their children to be safe when they attend the Citrus County public schools.
That is the mandate for the county school system and the sheriff’s department as these two organizations finalize a contract to have trained and armed SROs and guardians ready for the upcoming school year.
Parents do not care about the “inside baseball” bickering that has gone on over the agreement or the oversized ego of some of our elected officials.
Parents want their children safe and the school board needs to ink the final agreement at the Tuesday school board meeting.
The heightened security is necessary because it has somehow become the “new normal” for crazed gunmen to murder innocent students and school personnel at our public schools. Armed law enforcement personnel are now required by state law to be at every school site.
In Citrus County, the agreed upon protection will be provided by a combination of sheriff deputies as SROs under the control of the sheriff’s department and trained guardians under the control of the school system. The training of the guardians is provided by the sheriff’s department.
Some funding flows from the state, but both the school system and the sheriff’s department have experienced many new costs from the safety crisis. It has taken the combination of manpower, funding sources and personnel to make this happen.
It is imperative that all of these protectors work together and communicate in a professional way that is in the best interest of the children. The tragedy at Parkland High School in South Florida, where 17 people were murdered, demonstrates how bad things can be when law enforcement isn’t properly trained and prepared to deal with an attack.
In Citrus County, things got stalled because Sheriff Mike Prendergast objected to the school board’s selection of Buddy Grant to administer its guardian program. Grant formerly worked for the previous sheriff’s administration for decades and was forced out of his leadership role when Prendergast won the election.
There were some accusations of wrongdoing against Grant at the time, but an investigation completely cleared him of those charges. This was a dead issue until Sheriff Prendergast ruled that he would not permit the school board employee on his property to coordinate school safety issues.
For the record, parents don’t care about the political infighting of our elected officials. They care about the safety of our children. The sheriff gets to hire his employees and the school board has the same rights.
We want these issues put to rest permanently and for this combined SRO/guardian contract to be signed now so that by the opening day of school all safety precautions are put in place.
Stop playing politics and check your ego at the front door of the public schools. If an elected official stands in the way, the voters will remember on election day.
This is about the safety of our children — don’t forget it.