A school in Palmetto, Florida, has hired combat veterans with semi-automatic rifles as school guardians, to prevent attacks like the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year.
“If someone walks onto this campus, they’re going to be shot and killed,” said Manatee School for the Arts principal Bill Jones, via the Bradenton Herald. “We’re not going to talk with them. We’re not going to negotiate. We are going to put them down, as quickly as possible.”
One guardian has already been hired and another one scheduled to be hired is still undergoing training with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. The guardians will carry the semi-automatic bullpup-style Kel-Tec RDB 17-inch rifle along with Glock handguns.
As for the rifle, Jones likes the firepower advantage it gives the school in the event of an attack.
“We want our SROs and guardians to be as well prepared as possible if God forbid the worst happens,” said Jones. “If someone comes in with a handgun, great, than we have a tremendous advantage and we will use that advantage.”
Jones also realizes that the setup is not an absolute safeguard.
“There’s no guarantee that the guardian’s going to be where he’s needed at the time, but you do the best,” said Jones. “And certainly, the long gun gives you a better range.”
Despite the range advantage, the ammunition used by guardians is designed to not penetrate deeply, thereby ensuring a level of safety to students and staff who might otherwise get hit by a bullet shot through an intruder.
Manatee School for the Arts guardians are also adorned in bulletproof armor that is considered tougher than what police normally wear, and is comparable to combat-grade armor.
Video from the Bradenton Herald shows a guardian walking school property with the rifle hanging in front of him while wearing bulletproof armor. This is a contrast to school resource officers assigned by law enforcement agencies, many who have rifles but keep them secured in their vehicles.
Having guardians in the school, and not just school resource officers, is a result of a law passed after the Parkland school shooting. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act requires all Florida schools to have armed security on campus.
The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, coming out of the School Public Safety Act, allows schools the flexibility to choose guardians, instead of just relying on school resource officers provided by local agencies.
But Manatee School for the Arts has taken an aggressive approach by hiring only guardians with military combat experience, exceeding the requirements of the new law.
The guardian that already patrols the school is a 15-year U.S. Army veteran that served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jones told the Herald why he is more comfortable with military vets.
“If you’re ever going to have an event on campus, I don’t want it to be the first time they’ve been shot at,” Jones said. “I don’t want them trying to figure who they are and how they are going to respond. That’s a life-changing experience and these folks, I don’t want this to be the first time they’ve asked themselves, ‘What am I going to do?”