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Lee cities and counties scramble to comply with school security law

Posted at 9:22 PM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-17 21:22:51-04

The city of Ft. Myers will place 17 FMPD officers in 16 of its schools in order to comply with Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. 

The law was passed earlier this year in the wake of a deadly school shooting in Broward County February 14th.  The law requires every school have one full time deputy or officer in each school.

Most districts have an officer that roams between two or three schools.

"The state provided us with three and half million dollars that we could put exclusively toward school resource officer so that's less than half the cost of an SRO in all 78 traditional schools," said Lee County Schools spokesperson Rob Spicker.

Ft. Myers paid for half of the cost of its 17 officers, about a million dollars. But not all municipalities can afford to foot the bill.

"The major concern is the concept of unfunded mandates," said Estero Mayor Jim Boesch.

The Village of Estero does not have its own police department, but would still be on the hook for half of the salary.  Money town officials say they don't have.

"We have Pinewood Elementary behind us, it was built for 650 students, we now have 1100 students at that school," said Boesch.  The mayor estimates the village will need at least two more schools to accommodate its growing population. 

Town Councilman Nick Batos says the village shouldn't have to pay extra for any additional school resource officers, since Estero residents already pay taxes to county.

Spicker says the district may ask the state for more money to fund school resource officers from unused funds out of the Guardian Program.  The program allows counties to train and arm teachers.