A Florida sheriff has reassured parents that children will be kept safe in the upcoming school year, announcing that deputies in Brevard County will be equipped with rifles and tactical gear to make schools “hard targets” for would-be shooters.
In a Facebook video posted Monday, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey detailed school safety measures local police stations have taken after the deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
“Folks, let me be very clear. You are not coming in to my schools and killing our children. I firmly believe that if you do not meet violence with violence, you will be violently killed,” Ivey said. “My goal is to avoid ever having to face a threat on one of our campuses by being better prepared, better armed, and better trained than anyone else, and especially someone thinking about harming our children or our teachers.”
Ivey announced that school resource deputies with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office will be given new uniforms with a “tactical appearance that clearly signifies we mean business when it comes to protecting our children.”
Officers will also be permitted to carry rifles on campus, changing a policy that Ivey said previously required his deputies to keep their long guns locked in a gun safe within their parked patrol cars.
“This new style uniform and tactical preparedness gives our team members the advantage and ability to instantly address the threat with the level of force necessary to eliminate the shooter and save the lives of innocent children and teachers,” he explained.
“While there will be those that perhaps don’t understand this new tactical approach to keeping our kids safe, it is my prayer that this new level of preparedness and immediate ability to address the threat will prevent an active shooter from ever walking onto one of our campuses and trying to harm a child,” Ivey said.
A North Carolina school district recently adopted similar school safety measures. Madison County Schools, near Asheville, North Carolina, announced Friday that AR-15 rifles would be kept on campus locked in safes for school resource officers to access if there’s ever a shooting event.
“Having a deputy just armed with a handgun isn’t enough to stop these animals,” Sheriff Buddy Harwood said, according to WLOS-TV. “That’s why I’ve decided to arm all of my school resource officers with AR-15 rifles.”
Though the local superintendent and county board support the sheriff’s new policy, it is opposed by UNC Chapel Hill education professor Dr. Dorothy Espelage. She said she’s conducted decades of research on school safety and determined that “hardening” schools could lead to accidents and increased juvenile arrests.
“What’s going to happen is we’re going to have accidents with these guns,” Espelage told WLOS. “Just the presence of an SRO increases violence in the schools. There’s more arrests of kids. Why is it that they have to have these AR-15s? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Harwood said the AR-15s would be locked in an undisclosed location within safes paid for by the county.