Now a school in Palmetto is trying to make sure a similar tragedy doesn’t happen there.
By the end of this month, the Manatee School for the Arts will have hired two combat veterans whose sole job is to patrol the campus with semiautomatic rifles and stop any active shooters.
Bill Jones, the school’s principal, hopes publicizing the new hires will deter anyone who might be thinking about shooting up the school.
“If someone walks onto this campus, they’re going to be shot and killed,” he told the Bradenton Herald. “We’re not going to talk with them. We’re not going to negotiate. We are going to put them down, as quickly as possible.”
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, many Florida schools tightened their security.
The Manatee School for the Arts is a charter school that’s allowed to make its own rules about security. Officials chose to have the school guardians carry both a handgun and a military-style long gun, according to local station WWSB TV.
Jones said it’s important the guardians have the tools to take down a shooter on their own.
“We’ve had a couple of incidents and we just called and they’re here in three minutes,” Jones told the station. “Unfortunately, you look at parkland and in three minutes how many people were killed. So you know you can’t expect much more from the police, there’s only so much they can do and the rest of it is your responsibility.”
But Jones’ plan is getting some backlash from security experts like Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief who now owns a Daytona Beach–based global investigative group and police management consulting business.
“You don’t walk around with an assault rifle strapped to your chest in a school. That is not the normal policy of police agencies,” he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
He said school guardians are more effective when they engage with students and form positive relationships rather than focus only on stopping mass shootings — which, while tragic, are relatively rare.
“His job is to protect the kids, and he can do that with a handgun, but it is also to form positive relationships,” Zalisko said. “Develop information on who may have drugs or weapons. There is a lot involved.”
Manatee’s first hire, a combat veteran with 15 years of infantry experience, has been on campus for a couple of months.
Another guardian, also a combat vet, will begin working this month after he completes the required 132 hours of firearm safety and proficiency training, according to The New York Times.
Jones told the paper he wanted guards who have experience with being shot at and won’t hesitate to go after an active shooter.
Although Jones said “most parents have been very accepting,” the school is hoping to quell safety concerns by requiring the guardians to keep the chambers of the rifles empty. In addition, the guns are not stored on campus.
You can see a segment on the school’s guardians in the video below: