According to a survey released by the Florida Department of District School Superintendents, every district has at least one SRO in it, and the majority of them have at least one assigned full time to all their secondary schools.
When it comes to elementary schools, districts are less consistent, the survey found, but a growing number have added SROs to elementary schools following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“This was an attempt to just really get our arms around what is happening,” said Sen. Bill Montford, who is the CEO of the superintendents association and a former superintendent and principal.
He said the data doesn’t reveal any “earth-shattering surprises,” but it does provide insight about just how differently the 67 school districts in the state approach SROs.
“It’s a small piece, but it’s an excellent group of data,” he said.
In this survey, which was released Friday, superintendents were asked to provide the percentage of SROs at their high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, the funding formula for those positions and any additional “pertinent” information.
The responses are as varied as the districts themselves.
Some districts split the cost of SROs 50-50 between the district and the Sheriff’s Office, while others rely entirely on state funding earmarked for school safety. A few share the cost among the district, local law enforcement and county government.
While most of the SROs come from sheriff’s departments, some come from city police departments and others are part of a private security team hired by the district. One or two report having their own police force.
Only a few districts, including Okaloosa and Walton counties, have SROs at every school.
Local superintendents said they are only just beginning to digest the information gleaned in the survey.
“I’ll take the information and share it with our task force that we’ve put together,” said Santa Rosa County Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick, adding that the information on the chart provided by the association is fluid.
In his county, for example, what they’re doing has changed since he initially reported it. While waiting for the task force to get to work, Wyrosdick said he and Santa Rosa County Sheriff Wendell Hall have decided to bring additional SROs to the district.
Previously, only the high schools had SROs assigned to them. It could change again as they study the issue more.
“I think one of the aims the sheriff and I have is to gather as much data as possible regarding school security,” he said. “I think that information is going to be the basis (for) what recommendations to make … and how to pursue policy down the road.”
Anderson said she too would be sharing the information provided through the survey with a similar task force in her district. For them, she said, they would be looking closely at how other districts pay for SROs.
“We are definitely looking at keeping our SROs in the elementary schools,” she said. “It’s finding the money to do it — there are other things we have to let go of.”
Okaloosa County Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said the funding question is a big one for her district, too. She said she plans to discuss the findings with other superintendents at an upcoming meeting even as a newly formed security committee in the district looks more deeply at the survey.
She anticipated that they would have recommendations to the Okaloosa County School Board in the next few months after they get a better grip on the funding situation.
“We’re all holding our breaths ... to see what the Legislature is going to do,” she said, “because really everything is going to hinge on what they’re going to give us.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Katie Tammen at 850-315-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KatieTnwfdn.