Hendry County sheriff to arm anonymous school staff

Published: Updated:
Steve Whidden

Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden has announced an initiative to arm volunteer school staff in Hendry County schools.

The decision comes in the wake of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, where a shooter entered the school killing 17 with a semi-automatic firearm.

Whidden plans to take “multiple capable volunteers from each school and allow them to carry concealed firearm,” he said in a recorded statement.

Watch or read the full statement below from Sheriff Whidden:

Hello everyone, I want to talk to you today about something very disturbing. As you know, on February 14th a very sick and disturbed individual took the lives of 17 innocent school children and adults in Broward County.

This was one of many horrific shootings that have occured in our country. In December of 2012 after the Sandy Hook school shooting I took a hard look at our situation here in Hendry County. I realized that our children were not safe. At that time we had only four resource officers in our county. Two in the high schools and two in the middle schools, leaving our younger children helpless.

I reached out to the superintendent of schools, Mr. Paul Puletti, together with the assistance of the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners we were able to obtain funding to place SROs in all the schools in Hendry County.

These SROs are equipped with loan rifles that are secured in a safe in their office which allow them to respond to threats immediately.

In the past the SROs main duty was to mentor and assist children in school. Unfortunately times have changed. Along with mentoring, the main object is to protect our children from evil, like what occured at Sandy Hook and Parkland.

It’s become apparent that even though we have a deputy in every school, that may not be enough when facing someone who is intent on killing our kids.

What would happen if an active shooter came into our schools and God forbid the first person he killed was the deputy – what then? Our babies are left helpless and defenseless against thins spawn of evil.

We have to do more.

Again I contacted the superintendent, and together we have come up with a plan to better protect our children.

The plan is to take multiple, capable, volunteers from each school and allow them to carry concealed firearms in each school.

Now, we’re not going to simply hand a firearm to school staff and place them in schools. These volunteers would be given a psychological exam, a full background check, and a drug test.

Once they successfully complete these exams they will be put through our special law enforcement tactical active shooter course.

The requirements of this course are actually more than what is required of active law enforcement officers.

We’re doing this because we want to ensure not only that these staff members will be safe, but that they are more than capable of stopping an active shooter.

After they successfully complete the course, I will swear them in as special deputies, whose powers are only to protect our children against an active shooter and are only authorized on school campuses.

They will also be kept anonymous for security reasons.

Remember, the more armed personnel we can put into each school, the faster they can react to a shooter situation. The faster we react means the more lives are saved.

I know there are mixed feeling about this. Frankly, I don’t like the idea of having to arm school staff members, however, until the federal government and or state government releases funding to place multiple deputies in every school, we have no other option.

Yes, there are other things we can do such as building fences and hardening our schools with bullet-proof glass, lock doors and metal detectors, but again these things take time and money, neither of which we have right now. And we have to protect our children now, not tomorrow.

I can assure you that this is not a knee jerk reaction and is not solely built around emotion. I have thought long and hard about this. This is the only common sense approach that will stop and active an active shooter and save our children.

Thank you, and God bless.

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