Frequently Asked Questions
What is the security plan for Hillsborough County Public Schools?
As part of a new state law, starting in the 2018-19 school year there will be an armed, trained first responder on every school campus during the school day.
We’ve continued our partnership with Sheriff Chad Chronister and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to create the right plan for our district.
In middle and high schools, you’ll continue to see a school resource deputy or officer from the sheriff’s office or Tampa Police Department.
Starting new this fall, there will be an armed school security officer at every elementary school. Right now, each elementary school already has an officer assigned, but that officer may rotate between three to five schools.
We’re expanding that security team to place one officer at every school.
What are the training and qualifications of school security officers from Hillsborough County Public Schools?
School security officers work for our school district and receive high-quality, law enforcement-level training.
- Team established in 1969
- Currently 119 officers and supervisors
- More than 2/3 are current or former law enforcement officers
- More than 1/3 are current or former military servicemembers
- Led by former Tampa Police Department second-in-command
- Receive law enforcement-level training in active shooter response, crisis intervention, defensive tactics, firearms, and more
- Complete criminal background check, driver’s license check, drug testing, psychological evaluation, and more
- Officers earn their firearms certification from the Florida Department of Agriculture
- Connected by a 24-hour state-of-the-art communications center
What new training will officers be receiving?
School security officers work for our school district and already receive high-quality, law enforcement-level training (See question and answer above for details).
Officers must complete a new, 132-hour, six-week training academy through the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to receive an added level of training for active shooter scenarios, firearms, defense tactics, CPR/First Aid, legal issues, and procedural training. Officers working in elementary schools will also receive training for working with younger students.
How does this relate to the guardian/marshal/sentinel program?
Our school security officers will be authorized and trained under the authority of the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, but the guardian/marshal program will only be used to arm trained security officers in our district; Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Sheriff Chad Chronister do not support arming teachers or other school support staff members such as custodians or media specialists.
Will school security officers have arrest powers?
No. School security officers serving as armed, trained first responders in our elementary schools have never had arrest powers and won't under this school security plan. Their role focuses on immediate response to active threats, maintaining access control and perimeter security, and preventive education for students and staff. They'll continue to work in partnership with local police departments and the sheriff's office.
Our district currently utilizes school resource deputies and officers on our middle and high school campuses and will continue to do so; those law enforcement officers have arrest powers.
Will there be security at after-school activities?
We are establishing and staffing the program at a level that will provide an armed, trained first responder at every school during the scheduled school day. In addition, school security or law enforcement officers are often present at major school functions such as high school football games.
Will there be school security during EYP (Extended Year Programs) and summer school?
Our current plans do not include full-time security during these programs, but school security and law enforcement do maintain a presence at select across our county year-round.
What about security at charter and private schools?
Our current plan covers Hillsborough County’s more than 230 traditional school sites. We are awaiting guidance from the state’s Office of Safe Schools on the security requirements for charter schools.
Schools are supposed to hold active shooter training in schools once per semester. How will schools do this?
By May 1, 2018, the Florida Department of Education will hire a director for their newly created Office of Safe Schools.
By July 1, 2018, superintendents must designate a district school safety specialist. The director for the Office of Safe Schools will work with the 67 school safety specialists across the state.
The school safety specialist will act as a compliance and standards officer for the district and will lay out what active shooter drills will look like and how frequently they will occur. The school safety specialist will also oversee reporting mandates for schools by determining who must be notified in the event of a threat/potential threat. The position will also assess security features at schools and identify any needed upgrades.
Will we use any of the state-allocated money for safety needs: metal detectors, bulletproof glass, steel doors, or upgraded locks?
Under the new law, the state increased our budget for school security by about $6 million. This money allows us to hire officers for every one of our elementary schools, plus supervisors – all within that budget.
Funding for school safety improvements is separate from the money designated to cover the salaries of officers and supervisors.
The law designates $99 million statewide for districts to address specific safety needs at their schools. Our district has invested millions of dollars in physical security upgrades since 2012, and we will continue to assess and improve all of our facilities in an effort meet state standards as they are created.
How does Hillsborough County Public Schools plan to expand mental health service teams?
Before the start of the 2018-2019 school year, the Florida Department of Education will establish a youth mental awareness and assistance training program to train school personnel to better identify signs of mental illness in students and how to seek the proper treatment.
In the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, Florida schools were provided $69 million to establish or expand school-based mental health care.
The state’s expectation is that each student in Florida has access to a mental health professional at school by the 2018-2019 school year. Plans must be submitted to the state DOE by August 1, 2018.
By September 1, 2018, each school should establish a threat assessment team with expertise in mental health counseling, academic instruction, law enforcement and school administration that will meet monthly to review any potential threats to students and staff at the school.
Will taxpayer dollars be used for this new security roll-out?
Safe school dollars are funded via the state Legislature’s allocations using sales tax collections, property tax dollars, and non-recurring dollars. No additional taxes were added to fund these mandates.
The state increased our district’s security funding by approximately $6 million.
To cover every elementary school and additional sites, expanding our school security force by 145 officers and supervisors:
- Will cost an estimated $7 million in the first year (including equipment)
- Will cost an estimated $5.3 million in the following years
Human Resources Questions
Can the school district hire enough people in time?
There are 119 HCPS Security and Emergency Management employees who will be trained by the sheriff’s office and become certified under the guardian program before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
Right now, it’s estimated the district will need to hire approximately 145 additional qualified officers, who will be trained through the sheriff’s office, as quickly as possible. It’s expected it could take about a year, perhaps a little longer, to fill all of the positions.
The district will have either a school security officer or law enforcement officer on every campus when school starts August 10, 2018. We’re working on plans with our partners at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Tampa, Plant City, and Temple Terrace Police Departments to provide coverage until our district’s hiring process is complete.
Where can I apply for a career as a school security officer?
School service officers in our district generally work a ten-month calendar and Hillsborough County Public Schools offers eligible employees excellent benefits and membership in the Florida Retirement System. As an equal opportunity employer, our district seeks diversity in its workforce.