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Florida School Hires 2 Former Combat Veterans to Take Down Active Shooters



At the end of February, the students at Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Fla., Will see two forms combat veterans in body armor roaming the grounds, each carrying a 9-millimeter Glock handgun and a semi-automatic 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 2,1

00 middle and High school students are the only schools in Manatee County that carry their 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.

"We have guardians in almost all of our elementary schools, and in most of our charter schools," said Michael Barber, a spokesman for the School District of Manatee County

Each of the district's public high schools have school resource officers, he added.

Manatee School for the Arts hired one guardian with 15 years of infantry experience who has now been on campus for a couple of months, Dr. Jones said. A second guardian, also a combat veteran, is finishing his training and will start working later this month, he added. Guardians are required to complete at least 132 hours of safety and proficiency training.

. Jones said the school hired combat veterans because he wanted guards who wouldn't hesitate to go after an active shooter.

"I don't want to be the first time they've had anyone shooting at them," he said

So far, Dr. Jones said, "Most parents have been very accepting."

To safety safety concerns the high-powered weapons, the school requires its guardians to keep the chambers of their Kel-Tec RDB semiautomatic rifles empty, and the guns are not stored on campus

The presence of an armed guard doesn't necessarily mean violence. During the shooting last February at left 17 in Parkland dead, there was an armed school resource officer standing by the building who was later widely criticized for not entering. (He said he thought at the time that the shooter was outside.)

And in 2016, a teacher in Michigan was buried in the neck by a bullet when a school resource officer negatively fired his gun. And in some cases, agitated students have grabbed officers' guns, even while the guns were in holsters.


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