High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers se­cur­ing some schools

Board ap­proves tem­po­rary mea­sure for Palm Beach Co.

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Lois K. Solomon South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

Stu­dents at eight Palm Beach County schools may have no­ticed new mem­bers of their school se­cu­rity teams this year: Florida High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers.

The of­fi­cers, usu­ally more vis­i­ble on In­ter­state 95 and other Florida high­ways, are fill­ing in while the Palm Beach County School Dis­trict con­tin­ues its search for school po­lice.

The dis­trict has added 65 of­fi­cers to its force this school year, work­ing to com­ply with a state man­date to have at least one of­fi­cer in every school. This is one of the re­quire­ments of the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas Pub­lic Safety Act, passed by the state Leg­is­la­ture after the Park­land mas­sacre last year.

The dis­trict still has 10 open­ings for full-time of­fi­cers, Capt. An­thony Makowski said, thus the need for FHP.

“This is a tem­po­rary mea­sure un­til the school dis­trict fin­ishes hir­ing its own of­fi­cers,” he said in an email.

The School Board on Wed­nes­day agreed to spend up to $225,000 this year to em­ploy the pa­trol.

The of­fi­cers, who earn $65 an hour, are off duty and ac­com­pa­nied by a Palm Beach County school po­lice of­fi­cer. They get the same train­ing as the mu­nic­i­pal po­lice of­fi­cers who also have filled in at school sites while the dis­trict con­tin­ues hir­ing, Makowski said.

All FHP of­fi­cers have had ac­tive shooter train­ing, FHP Lt. Al­varo Fe­ola said. He said Palm Beach is the only school dis­trict in the FHP re­gion of Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Okee­chobee and In­dian River coun­ties to be hir­ing out the of­fi­cers at the mo­ment.

These schools have em­ployed the of­fi­cers this year: John I. Leonard High in Greenacres, Palm Beach Cen­tral High in Welling­ton, Royal Palm Beach High, Boyn­ton Beach High, For­est Hill High in West Palm Beach, Starlight Cove Ele­men­tary in Lan­tana, Lake Worth High and San­taluces High in Lan­tana.

The school board on Wed­nes­day also de­cided to ap­peal a Tal­la­has­see ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge’s rul­ing that the school dis­trict is re­spon­si­ble for sup­ply­ing school po­lice of­fi­cers to pro­tect char­ter schools.

Re­nais­sance Char­ter School had asked the dis­trict to place of­fi­cers on its six cam­puses in the county after the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas Act went into ef­fect last year. The dis­trict de­clined, say­ing it al­ready dis­trib­uted school safety al­lo­ca­tions to the char­ters, which are pub­lic but man­aged pri­vately.

Re­nais­sance lodged a com­plaint with the state Di­vi­sion of Ad­min­is­tra­tive Hear­ings. Judge John Van Lan­ing­ham sided with Re­nais­sance, say­ing the law “clearly and un­am­bigu­ously” re­quires school boards and su­per­in­ten­dents to place of­fi­cers at all the pub­lic schools in their ju­ris­dic­tions, in­clud­ing char­ter schools.

SUN SEN­TINEL

High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers are eas­ily rec­og­niz­able for their sig­na­ture black cam­paign hats and taupe uni­forms.

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