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Sarasota School Board To Hold Emergency Meeting On School Security

The Sarasota County School Board
Sarasota County Schools
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

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.

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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 weekand 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.

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Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.