As elementary school students throughout Temple Terrace prepare to go back to class on Monday, they aren’t alone.
Temple Terrace police will also return in time for the first bell—and they’ll stick around throughout the rest of the school year.
The Temple Terrace Police Department will have officers at Temple Terrace elementary schools during arrivals and dismissals, according to Michael Dunn, the city’s public information officer. Police officers will also stop by the schools during the day.
“They’ll do that indefinitely until the Hillsborough School Board decides it’s no longer needed,” Dunn said.
Similarly, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies will be on hand at unincorporated elementary schools, as will Tampa police for City of Tampa elementary schools.
“School safety is the utmost priority,” explained Lt. Chad Chronister of the sheriff’s office’s community outreach division.
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The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Conn., brought to light the “potential for some type of violence in our elementary schools,” he said.
Law enforcement officers were assigned to elementary schools following the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., massacre. In that case, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked onto an elementary school campus and shot 20 children, ages 6 and 7, to death and six staff members prior to killing himself.
Following a joint meeting this week between the school district, the sheriff’s office and Tampa police, it was decided that the county’s 150 or so elementary schools should all have a police presence—just like middle and high school campuses do with resource officers.
What Happens Next Year?
Whether law enforcement officers will remain on elementary school campuses after this school year is unclear, but it is likely some form of increased security will continue, Chronister said.
Discussions are already taking place to determine if the school district will expand its security force or if steps will be taken to keep an enhanced school resource deputy program in place.
“I don’t think the security is going anywhere,” Chronister said.
Back in December, we asked Patch readers whether they thought elementary schools should have an armed police presence. Many readers said yes and some had a few ideas of their own, including adding panic buttons and metal detectors to school campuses.
“I agree there should be at least one School Resource Officer/Police Officer in a school,” wrote Patch reader Michael D. “I know we had one at my school K-12. And you got to know him early, and he wasn't an off-duty officer, his job was to be at the school for 8 hours and else were for the rest of his shift. I don't see why it can't be the case in all schools. It also introduces kids to the police in a non-threatening manner.”
What do you think? Are you relieved to have a stronger police presence at Temple Terrace elementary schools? Think the notion is overkill? Share your thoughts in the comments section.