When your child returns to school this week, you may notice some school staff wearing new brightly colored uniforms.
These are Lee County School guardians, staff members who are now trained to carry a gun on campus.
Lee County School guardians are in addition to the School Resource Officers.
The state added the guardian program after the massacre in Parkland in 2018, and this is Lee County’s first year in the program.
You can’t miss them. The uniform is bold and in bright neon, with the word “Guardian” on it.
“They don’t just blend in and look like common civilians carrying guns,” said BobbieJo Stiffey, Lee County parent.
That’s the point. Unlike most, if not all, other Florida school districts that have the guardian program, Lee County School Guardians are not hidden among school staff.
The district wants its guardians to be obvious, even if that means eliminating the element of surprise for a school shooter.
“I’m not one for surprises,” said Debbie Jordan, Lee County School Board member, District 4.
Jordan wanted guardians visible and so did law enforcement.
Parents were asked if they would still be for the shirts if they didn’t say “Guardian.”
“I’m not too sure about that because that’s almost like a shooter coming in,” Stiffey said. “I feel like making them stand out, and giving them special shirts to wear makes them identifiable, so parents don’t feel on edge that there is someone with a firearm and the school.”
The Guardians had to complete more than 160 hours of firearm training and pass psychological and drug tests.
They go on duty the first day of school on Thursday.