Pasco School Security a Concern for Superintendent
Increasing security around the district's campuses is not off the table.
As nearby Hillsborough County considers a $4.1 million proposal to add 130 security guards to its staff to cover elementary campuses, Pasco is taking a softer approach.
That, however, doesn’t mean the issue of enhanced security in local schools is off the table.
“I will be meeting with our law enforcement agencies soon to explore the options that might be explored for Pasco County,” Superintendent Kurt Browning wrote in an email.
Like Hillsborough, Pasco provided a law enforcement presence at elementary schools in the days following the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children, ages 6 and 7, died when an armed gunman stormed the campus. Six adults and the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also perished.
Unlike Hillsborough, however, Pasco did not continue the increased security measures following the winter break. Students returned to classes Jan. 8.
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While the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has assigned deputies to elementary schools as a stop-gap measure for the rest of this school year, Pasco has taken a different approach.
"Road patrol deputies have been told to patrol the zones around those schools as their time permits," sheriff's office spokesman Kevin Doll said during an earlier interview.
Pasco has never had resource officers in all of the district's elementary schools, Doll said, but there used to be six that rotated between them, "until the school board cut that funding years ago."
Further cuts to funding in recent years have tightened things up even more, Doll said.
"The school board used to fund 50 percent of the salaries of the SROs that we currently have in middle schools and high schools, but in recent years they have cut that also, so now the sheriff's office funds the majority of our SROs from our budget."
Browning did not elaborate on when the meeting with law enforcement would take place or what options might be explored.
Opinions are Mixed
The idea of increasing security on Pasco elementary campuses has been met with mixed feelings by parents and Patch readers.
Land O’ Lakes mother Wendy Seth attended the Pasco School Board’s Dec. 18 meeting to urge a continued police presence.
"I believe this is a big mistake," Seth said of the decision to pull deputies off campuses following the winter break. "There are copy cats…there is no excuse in this day and age for there not to be police presence at the elementary level."
What do you think? Are Pasco’s elementary schools safe? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Stay with Land O' Lakes Patch for updates as they become available.