PALMETTO, Fla. (FOX 13) - There are 2,100 students at Manatee School for the Arts and one school guardian. That guardian has been armed with a weapon that's captured the nation's attention.
The school's principal hired a former combat veteran as the school's guardian. In October, he was armed with military body armor and a long gun, a Kel Tec RDB 17 military-style rifle.
"In school shootings, things happen fast," said Dr. Bill Jones, principal of Manatee School for the Arts. "If a situation happens, they’ve got to take care of it."
All schools in Florida are required to have armed protection after last year's deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The guardian at Manatee School for the Arts is the only in the state armed with the long gun.
"If somebody walks in and starts shooting, it is war," Jones told FOX 13.
Jones said while the odds are slim, he wants to make sure a threat could be taken down immediately.
"If you don’t understand what the goal is and the mission is, that’s how you get in trouble. You look at these other places where people have hesitated, where they’re not sure what to do next. That’s how people get killed," he said.
Many of the parents we spoke to agree.
"After everything that has happened in our country, with all of the school shootings and church shootings, as long as the children are protected by all means necessary, they can do whatever they feel is necessary," said Stephen Russell.
A second school guardian will start at MSA next week. He will also carry a long gun after he finishes his certification with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
The school has 450 video cameras in place, plans for two guard shacks and gates.
Jones said their school guardians are just a small piece of a bigger picture.
"You can’t just wish for the best. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst," he added.