Parents, teachers, and students get involved in Pasco Co. school safety

- In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, the safety of our local schools has never been a higher priority.

Wednesday night, Pasco County School District officials, law enforcement, parents, and students got together to talk about security on their campuses how to make sure a tragic event like that doesn't happen here.

It was the first of two school safety town hall meetings at River Ridge High and Middle schools. Pasco County Superintendent Kurt Browning says the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was life-changing.

"It gave us a wake-up call to make sure that we were not lax," Browning said.

And that's what parents are depending on.

"Our kids are here. I want you to protect them," said parent Paul Boglino.

Tuesday, the Pasco County School Board approved the superintendent’s proposal to hire a Director of School Safety and Security, as well as increasing the number of school safety guards to 50 for elementary schools.

Middle and high schools will continue to be staffed with school resource officers.

"I just checked before coming into this presentation this evening and there are already 60 applicants for that position," said Betsy Kuhn, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services.

That's just one piece of the puzzle. Wednesday night, the district addressed topics like existing school security.

"Keep your doors locked, keep gates locked," Browning stressed to the crowd. "If you see people on your campus that you don't know who they are, you need to tell administration."

They talked about mental health.

"If a student has been seen or is being treated for a mental health issue, that now will be acknowledged to the district and the school," said David Chamberlin, Student Services Supervisor.

They also addressed the role of school staff when there's a threat, especially if the school resource officer isn't nearby.

"We need to be able to teach them innovative and proactive ways to mitigate the odds of being harmed, to save more children's lives," said Lt. Troy Fergueson with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Parents shared ideas.

"Non-lethal ammunition for qualified teachers," one suggested.

Students also shared concerns about things happening on their school campuses.

"The gate is wide open, anybody could park, walk into the school and they can roam around for a long as they want," Christopher Zoeller said.

All of these are conversations that could someday save lives.

"I think we should always be ready," Boglino said. "It's gonna happen. If it doesn't happen, that's great. But, the school needs to be locked down. Anybody that comes in needs to be checked and that's that."

The conversation continues next week. There will be another school safety town hall meeting held at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel on Monday, April 7 at 6 p.m.

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