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Sarasota School Officials Reach Out Following Parkland Shooting

Feb 19, 2018

Officials with Sarasota County Schools are reaching out to the community for their thoughts and suggestions on how to improve the school's security in preparation for a meeting with Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday.

Barely 24 hours into the campaign, the district had already received nearly 400 responses.

"It was a variety of perspectives, some were from our staff, some were from parents," said Superintendent Dr. Todd Bowden. "We even had community members and students submit ideas about how we might improve the safety and security of our campuses."

The large response led to officials removing the previous cutoff date of Feb. 28. Most of the suggestions called for adding metal detectors, security guards and school resource officers, as well as implementing new, more efficient procedures on campuses.

"I would say that there's been a wide gamut of feedback from the community," said Dr. Bowden. "Everything from 'we need to arm more people on campus' to 'we need tighter gun control.'"

Sarasota County School officials met Monday in an executive session to consider such feedback and prepare for Tuesday's workshop in Tallahassee.

"The purpose of this meeting was to review the current state of security of our campuses and discuss potential ideas about how we might increase that safety," said Dr. Bowden.

They took into account some of the suggestions they have already received and will be broaching them with the governor when they meet Tuesday.

"One of the requests we will ask for is the flexibility to make some local decisions," said Dr. Bowden.

The meeting in Tallahassee is part of various workshops that will run all day in an attempt to strengthen school safety policies already in place.

The event comes after 17 people were killed last week in a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

In addition to school security, other topics that will be discussed at the workshops include how to expand mental health services for Floridians, and how to prevent individuals with mental illnesses from gaining access to guns.

Law enforcement members, school administrators, teachers, mental health professionals, and state agency leaders are expected to attend.

Dr. Bowden says he's hoping to hear that the school administrators have the governor's support.

"I'd like to hear from the governor that it is not just the responsibility of school districts to keep our students safe on a daily business," said the superintendent. "It's the responsibility of local police departments, local sheriffs offices and the governor himself."

He expressed concern for his students and hopes that the workshops will end with policies that will make schools safer.

"We have an obligation to the families that we serve, and I want to provide a safe, learning environment and I want each and every one of those students to return home to their family at the end of the day," said Dr. Bowden. "That's a great responsibility that I don't take lightly."

People interested in offering feedback to the school district can email schoolsafetyfeedback@sarasotacountyschools.net.