At this past meeting of our School Safety Citizen’s Advisory Group, it was more educational once again, and will probably be the last one that is mostly educational before we begin the policy writing process.
Our meeting started off with a presentation about Sunshine Law from School Board Attorney, Frank Kruppenbacher.
I was really glad we had this presentation because I was a little confused, (I don’t think I was the only one), about Sunshine Law, especially how it applied to us.
Sunshine Law basically provides a “right of access” to governmental proceedings at both the state and local levels.
It applies to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that board for action.
Mr. Kruppenbacher broke it down for us and made it easy for us to understand.
State Senator Victor Torres joined our group via web call. Senator Torres spent 29 years in law enforcement and said he supported SROs from the beginning.
He said it’s all about training, and was told years ago the funding wasn’t there.
He said funding was found when tragedy struck (referring to I believe to the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas tragedy), let’s find it before.
Superintendent Debra Pace addressed our group to discuss statistics of discipline issues within the district and answer some questions asked by Tahitiana Chaffin.
Dr. Pace said that specific discipline data is not a matter of public record.
She did explain what issues could involve an SRO, or law enforcement, on campus.
They range from alcohol to bullying. Last year’s data is skewed due to the pandemic.
She also explained some of the codes and reasons for the SESIR codes and how district staff determines which would apply.
She also insisted that SROs are not the school disciplinarian.
Next up, School Board Member Julius Melendez gave his update to our group.
He thanked staff for providing data on the number of SROs in the schools, and also thanked Advisory Group member Tahitiana Chaffin for the questions she asked.
He also asked our group what our thoughts were on body cameras on SROs and about keeping the group together for future issues once we are finished with the SRO policy.
After discussion about body cameras, majority pro, Chairman Montiero said we could officially vote on this next meeting.
For myself, I am in favor of body cams and am not opposed to this idea of us staying together as a group, although I’m sure we would have to become an official Advisory Group to the School Board.
We all came to agreement after Tahitiana Chaffin mentioned we should discuss staying to get her as a group after we finish the task at hand.
At this point, Major Dan Weis of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office addressed our group.
Major Weis sent Sheriff Lopez apologies for not attending the meeting himself.
Major Weis talked about the number of SROs the Sheriff’s Department has out in the schools, and explained their specific policies and procedures.
He explained that the Sheriff’s Office SROs are very involved in the school’s and with students.
Our Chairman, Steve Montiero asked Major Weis about an ad online for the Sheriff’s Office, to which Major Weis explained that positions became available due to promotions. When they have openings, they put them out there.
I was really glad we finally got to hear from the Sheriff’s Office. It was important to me since the Sheriff’s Office has the majority of SROs in our schools, 64 in total.
Chairman Steve Montiero then discussed the survey questions that will be used for students and faculty.
We reviewed the questions that were submitted and went through the questions individually to address any concerns.
Besides some of the wording and some repetition, there wasnt anything that was too egregious, so we were able to finalize the survey questions.
John Boyd, Director of Labor Relations also addressed our group with a presentation on the process of writing a policy for the School Board.
This was a great presentation to get us ready for the next steps in the process.
With the meeting running out of time, Chairman Montiero suggested we reserve the finalization of our Mission Statement and Vision Statement until the next meeting.
We also approved the minutes for our last meeting.
This was a very informative meeting for our group, and I was happy and encouraged to see School Board Members Jon Arguello and Robert Bass attend our meeting and offer some ideas and input.
Speaking for myself, I like that the School Board Members, the Superintendent, and now all 3 branches of our local law enforcement have been receptive and helpful with what we are tasked to do.
I feel we are in a good position to begin the next steps in this process.
Our next meeting will be Tuesday, April 13 at 5:30pm