It will cost more than $4 million dollars to beef up security at Hillsborough schools.
It's a lot of money in an already cash-strapped school district.
Tuesday, school board members heard from a national leader in school security. He said paying now will save lives later.
The overriding message was that the Hillsborough school district has done a great job keeping kids safe. School resource officers have 220 hours of training -- more than anywhere else in the country.
They build relationships to combat bullying.
But the other part of the message is that the district needs to do more.
Michael Dorn, with Safe Havens International, is recommending Hillsborough add resource officers at every elementary school.
"Our view is it would be the most cost effective, successful approach to improving the level of safety and security and emergency preparedness, in contrast to the hundreds of millions to try and make physical remedies that still won't offer certain advantages," he said.
Dorn says violence is not the leading cause of death in schools, and he's not suggesting the extra officers just because of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. He says officers can stop threats that happen every day.
Only 19 Hillsborough elementary schools have officers. A group of elementary principals brought a letter to the board signed by all 142 elementary principals urging them to approve the security
"I am responsible for everything that happens at our school. School safety, school security is part of my job. I need all the help I can get in providing that. I think an SRO would help me do my job better," said Joanne Baumgartner, principal at Mitchell Elementary.
Assistant superintendent Lewis Brinson asked board members, who do they want to be the first responder to a shooter? His principal on the right, or a trained officer on the left.
But at a cost of more than $4 million. Board members Candy Olson and April Griffin say they have a hard time spending the money without also discussing dealing with mental health issues.
"We need to have it a more comprehensive plan," Griffin said. "Character education, mental health. All of that is part of the entire safety plan for our students."
Board members plan to wait for the state and federal government to see if they will give any money for school security before they make their final decision.
Hillsborough elementary schools have resource officers at their schools right now. The sheriff's office and Tampa police made the pledge to keep officers there for the rest of this school year, right after Sandy Hook happened.
But if they want to keep the extra security longer, the board will have to approve those additions.
There are already 78 officers at middle and high schools.
Last week, Tampa Police and the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office did a presentation to the board about active shooter trainings.
They suggested to the board, we should practice active shooter scenarios as much as we practice fire drills in school.
New crisis management trainings would cost $40,000.
Some school board members expressed their reservations about allowing active shooter drills with student involvement. They said they do not want to scare children but realize the importance of being prepared.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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