New Hire: Armed Combat Veterans to Protect Florida School From Active Shooters

February 12, 2019 AT 6:55 AM

By Christina Caron

By the end of February, the students at Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Fla., will see two former combat veterans in body armor roaming the grounds, each carrying a 9-millimeter Glock handgun and a semiautomatic rifle with a 17-inch barrel.

If an armed intruder were to enter the campus, “we’re not looking for a fair fight,” Bill Jones, the principal, said in an interview. “We’re looking at an overwhelming advantage.”

Legislation passed after the Parkland massacre last year requires schools in Florida to have at least one “safe-school officer.” Manatee School for the Arts, a charter for 2,100 middle and high school students, is the only school in Manatee County that chose to hire guards who carry rifles, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department, which trained the guards.

“It’s just a much more effective weapon than the handgun is,” Dr. Jones said.

The decision to patrol with long guns is “very unusual,” said Michael Dorn, the executive director of Safe Havens International, which has performed security assessments at dozens of public school systems throughout Florida, including three of the state’s largest school districts.

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