After the tragedy that occurred in Parkland Florida on Feb. 14, 2018, that claimed 17 lives, Florida passed a law titled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
The law requires:
- Each school board and district superintendent to work with law enforcement to assign one or more safe-school officers at each public school facility. The school resource officer (SRO) must be a sworn law enforcement officer. The state allocated $162 million for SRO’s.
The law includes charter schools, because though charter schools are independent schools, separate from the district, they receive public funding.
John Davidson, Executive Director of Crossroads Hope Academy, a foster home and charter school spoke in front of the legislative delegation in Charlotte County on Thursday to ask them for reprieve from this requirement.
His request would be for next year’s legislature, because the law for this school year required every public school campus to have an SRO campus at the start of the school year.
He complied with the law, and there is an SRO present at Crossroads Hope Academy.
He said the financial burden of continuing to comply to this requirement would be immense, and something he cannot afford.
The sheriff’s department had told him that adding an SRO to campus would be a $100,000 position. Though, Davidson said the sheriff’s department agreed to charge $85,000, because his school was significantly smaller. He said they ended up negotiating the fee even lower.
He is the only foster home in the state of Florida that also serves as a charter school. The school has 24 students enrolled.
“A lot of times laws are passed and they’re cart-blanche laws, I don’t think they thought through the possibilities of that, I’m a niche,” Davidson said.
”My cost to run to school almost doubles with that decision,” he added.
Davidson said he has to fundraise over $100,000 now just to run his school.
He said the only alternative option he was given was the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program, which opts to arm non-teacher faculty.
Davidson said that he and his second-in-command on campus are both prior military, but his staff was not comfortable with the idea of having a weapon present on campus. The sheriff’s office wasn’t particularly fond of the idea, either. And neither was Davidson.
”If the requirement is that we have to have an armed person on campus, I would rather it be an SRO than a civilian,” he said.
He added that he would prefer to have an SRO on campus at times when the campus is more vulnerable, like on nights and weekends.
On Nov. 27, a 16-year-old boy from Crossroads Hope Academy was charged with adult felony in court in connection with a carjacking, vehicle theft, and battery on a staff member that occurred in September.
The September incident occurred in the dorms at 1 a.m., the boy put the staff member in a choke-hold, and took his car, along with other juveniles from the facility. The boys made it to Jacksonville, before they were found by U.S. Marshalls.
Davidson, however, is not concerned about what could happen without an SRO on campus, because the incident in question happened in the middle of the night, in the dorms.
An SRO is only present during school hours.
When Davidson presented his issue to the legislative delegation, Rep. Michael Grant (R-Port Charlotte) asked him if he would send some possible solutions to him, to make it easier to bring up in Tallahassee.
“I don’t have a solution yet,” he said, “But I’m going to present some ideas to the state. I know I’m not the only one [having issues funding an SRO].”
He said he is pretty confident that he will be stuck in his current situation at least through July, and have to fund it.