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Hendry Sheriff announces plan to train and arm school volunteers

Posted at 9:31 AM, Mar 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-01 18:35:15-05

LaBELLE, Fla. -- The Hendry County Sheriff has announced plans for armed school volunteers in all county schools in an effort to protect their students.

Sheriff Steve Whidden made the announcement in a Facebook video on Thursday.

The county already has one armed School Resource Officer at each of the county's 11 schools, but Whidden is concerned that isn't enough to protect the students.

So he says he worked with the school superintendent to come up with further protection for students.

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

He says the volunteers will be given a psychological exam, full background check, and a drug test.  They will then take a law enforcement tactical active shooter course.  Those that pass the tests and course will be sworn in as special deputies that are only authorized on school campuses.

"Frankly, I don't like the idea of having to arm school staff members," says Whidden.  "However, until the federal government, and/or state government, release state funding to place multiple deputies in every school, we have no other option."

4 In Your Corner sat down with Hendry County School's Superintendent Paul Puletti, who brought the proposal before the school board on Tuesday. He's worked with Sheriff Whidden in the past.

After the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, the two agencies worked together to place a resource officer at every school in the district. Puletti will play a role in this proposal as well.

He explained that certain staff members would be specially deputized, and given a standard issued firearm, to be activated only in the event of a mass shooting. He does not believe teachers would necessarily be among staff participating. "Teachers have a charge, and that is to protect the students in their class. We don't want to pull teachers out of that situation to go respond to an emergency and leave their class unattended," he said. "Is this something I like to deal with or discuss? Absolutely not. But does it have some merit to talk about? Yes it does."

Superintendent Puletti has also shown interest in training teachers to be first responders, to be able to save a life during a mass shooting situation. The school board will discuss the issue on March 27 at the earliest.