Fasano: Up school security
By Matt Reinig | Hernando TodayNEW PORT RICHEY - After a week of increased security measures following the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that took the lives of 26 children and administrators, Hernando County Schools are ready to exhale.
Published: December 23, 2012
Published: December 23, 2012
But Capitols seem to be getting loud just about everywhere.
State Rep. Mike Fasano wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Friday requesting he include a proposal in his budget that would fund school resource officers in Florida's elementary schools, and Nation Rifle Association President Wayne Lapierre held a press conference advocating increased armed security in schools.
"Although there are no guarantees, it is quite possible that the mere presence of a law enforcement officer on campus may be enough of a deterrent to curb or totally prevent school-based violence," Fasano wrote. "While this no doubt will be an expensive proposition, no price tag can be placed on the lives of the precious children our public schools are entrusted with each and ever day of the school year."
Fasano, who until the last election represented the western part of Hernando County in District 11 of the state Senate, now represents the extreme western portion of Pasco County in District 36 of the state house.
It would cost approximately $150 million annually to staff a resource officer in every one of Florida's 1,963 elementary schools.
In Hernando County the annual cost of adding 10 school resource officers has been estimated between $394,609 and $585,920.
"You'd pay for it like you'd pay for anything else: the dollars that are given to us by the taxpayers," Fasano said. "Look, we're talking about the children; they're priceless, they don't have a price tag and we need to do everything we can to protect them. I want to be careful about not politicizing this, but we need to be proactive after this atrocity in Connecticut, and they need to be protected when they go to school everyday."
School District representatives said earlier this week they would gladly embrace added security to elementary schools if funding weren't a problem.
"If the state of federal government were to step up and say they would fund that, it would be a very welcome funding from either entity at this point," Assistant Superintendent of Schools Ken Pritz said. "I think it would be a relief for parents and the community, and given the circumstances it would be a real deterrent from the behaviors that are happening in this country, these attacks on these schools that we're getting."
Fasano mentioned Florida's 12th university, Florida Polytechnic University, as a reason why the state could implement his proposal regarding school resource officers.
"If we can throw money at a new university that we don't need, we can certainly find the balance to make sure that our children are protected in our elementary schools," Fasano said. "A university we did not need nor could we afford, and funding it year after year is going to cost a lot more than what it'd take to put (a school resource officer) in every classroom."
Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, which focuses on STEM degrees — or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees — was approved in April following $300 million in budget cuts to the state's other 11 universities.
"You don't need new sources of revenue," Fasano said in regards to paying for 1,963 resource officers. "We have a $70 billion budget, that's with a B."
Fasano mentioned in his letter to the governor that the shootings in Connecticut brought the need for greater scrutiny of school and classroom safety in state public schools.
"School resource officers are trained to understand the unique needs of children, in addition to their roles as enforcement officers," Fasano wrote. "(School resource officers) have proven time and again more than able to not only maintain a safe school environment, they often are able to see and help address needs that students have both in and out of school."
He's had the opportunity to visit schools in his district over the past 18 years he's been in the Legislature, Fasano said, and he stands by the success of school resource officer programs.
"I did not realize that not all of our elementary schools in the state did not have an SRO," Fasano said. "I think a school resource officer would not only be a tremendous asset as to public safety in the school, but (another) reason is what the officer would bring to the school itself, and I've seen how successful SROs have been in area middle schools and high schools. I see the great relation they have with the students."