Hernando schools considers hiring police force, eliminating sheriff's office SROs

The Hernando County sheriff is making clear his opposition to the school district's plans to do away with school resource officers.

The school district is considering starting its own police force, which would eliminate the need for sheriff's deputies at the schools.

The district says it will save money and allow it to hire more police officers. Some parents aren't on board, either.

"I trust the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. I trust them with my children," parent Carla Johns said.

Johns' son - who has special needs - shares a special bond with his school resource officer.

"They form a bond with these SROs. Students get to sit there and trust these SROs," parent Dakota Podvin said.

The district says having its own police force would increase safety.

"Creating an internal police force affords the district the opportunity to hire additional school resource officers," a district spokesperson said in a statement released Friday.

As the district explains, it could add more officers than they can afford to hire right now from the sheriff's office.

"It is a little bit confusing to us because of the fact that they say they love the service that the sheriff's office provides and I believe we do a good job," Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.

Currently, the measure is only a proposal and still requires a vote by the school board.

"Members of the school board asked staff to prepare information about all school security options available per legislation," the district said.

One of the options is to create a school district police force, only hiring fully sworn law enforcement officers who have experience as school resource officers. Before the board votes on the measure, some parents like Carla Johns plan to voice their concerns at their next meeting.

"Put your voice out there. Go to the meetings. This is not right. There's a lot of us who are against this and our voices need to be heard," Johns said.

The district plans to take the issue up again at their next school board meeting on Oct. 22. At the meeting, they could call for a vote on the proposal.