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Sarasota School Board To Hold Emergency Meeting On School Security

Sarasota County Schools
The Sarasota County School Board

The Sarasota County School Board is holding an emergency meeting Thursday on school security.  It comes after months of debate over whether the Sheriff's Office would help pay for school resource officers.

This week Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight tentatively agreed to share 20 percent of the cost for these armed guards, with the school district making up the other 80 percent. 

In the past, the departments split the cost 50-50. Then in March, Sheriff Knight suggested his office may not help pay at all. He and the school superintendent Todd Bowden have been negotiating possible agreements.

Bowden was first to suggest the 80-20 split earlier this month, but called for 12 school resource officer positions. Knight is asking for 14.

The school board is expected to vote on this latest proposal during Thursday’s meeting.

Board Chair Bridget Ziegler was a guest on Florida Matters this week and acknowledged the community’s frustration with all the uncertainty. She said she hopes the meeting will finalize how the county complies with a new state law that requires armed guards in every school.

“So that everyone has a very clear understanding of where the district is and how we're going to be continuing to partner with law enforcement,” Ziegler said. “And we will allow public comment because there are a lot of parents and families -- rightfully so -- concerned.”

The district plans to use school resource officers in middle and high schools for one more year while they set up an internal police department. That will initially serve elementary schools until the 2019-2020 school year, when internal officers will take over security for the entire district.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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