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More than 200 apply for Lee Schools guardian program, seven close to finishing training

Posted at 5:02 PM, Jul 28, 2023

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — On August 10, Lee County students will be back in the classroom. On campus this year: guardians, which are specific armed staff members.

The voluntary program was established after the Parkland shooting with a goal of being able to respond quickly to school threats. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno says his goal is to enhance school security alongside school resource officers.

"I think this creates an omni-presence that is very visible," said Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno. "It’s added eyes and ears at our schools."

According to the Lee County School District, staff members who are not in a classroom could apply to be a guardian. The district says some employees who showed interest include building supervisors, food service, tech specialists, paraprofessionals and more.

Training by law is 144 hours, but Marceno says his office is doing a little less than 170, which is about 19 days.

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"We’re not going to say, OK you want to help us. Here’s a gun and here’s a uniform," he explained. "The firearms portion is extensive. It’s deadly physical force, it’s learning. All the different medical, physical backgrounds."

The guardians do most of their training at the Lee County Gun Range, the sheriff's office says.

Out of the 200 people who applied, the first class started at 19 people and only seven are left two weeks in. LCSO says that's because of gun-related issues such as they couldn't pass the gun portion of the training or the remedial training. Others decided to voluntarily withdraw.

"That’s testament to we don’t just give anyone a badge and gun," Marceno said. "Once they go out there, and if there’s an incident, they’re going to revert right back to their training the same way we do."

Guardians, which the district says will go to the schools they currently work at, will wear a bright yellow shirt. Marceno says it will make it clear to students this person is a guardian and it's someone they can go to.

"It’s that warrior — being on a level with that student," Marceno said. "That the student trusts them and feels comfortable coming to them with that information."

Information that could potentially prevent any school incident. It's an incident Marceno wants the guardians to be prepared for, if it were to happen.
"We want to make sure they have all the tools to do their job thoroughly and also they understand how you train is how you perform," he said.

Lee County says guardians will be in some schools at the beginning of the 2023 school years.

As for other school districts, Charlotte County's superintendent told Fox 4 in June the Board approved the program on June 13, though training dates have not been established.

Collier County Public Schools says the school board plans on looking at the program's policy at the September meeting, where board members could approve of the program.