Boca Raton Officials Make School Safety Top Priority

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Working with the Palm Beach County School board and city police officers, Boca Raton City Council members have made school safety a top priority in the days and weeks following the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas that left 17 students and teachers dead.

From placing armed police officers at every school in the city, working on ways to harden the city’s schools and passing a resolution supporting enhanced and increased school safety, Boca officials agree that students need to be kept safe at schools.

The resolution supported reasonable firearm regulations, increased security measures at schools and more access to resources for people struggling with mental health issues.

“This is not a political statement,” said Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke, who brought forth the resolution. “This isn’t a red issue or a blue issue. This is an issue of human rights. We owe it to our students and we owe it to our teachers. Let’s do this for our children.”

Her colleagues on the dais agreed and the resolution passed unanimously.

School board member Frank Barbieri who represents schools in Boca’s city limits and its suburbs wants to make sure armed officers are permanently stationed at the entrance of every school. He said schools have stopped fire drills so if an alarm goes off, it is a real fire or someone has pulled it.

In the Douglas high school shooting, the shooter Nikolas Cruz, pulled the fire alarm which sent students fleeing out of the school and into his line of fire.

Officials discussed the pros and cons of metal detectors and identification badges that students swipe in and out with.

Barbieri said metal detectors won’t stop a kid who wants to get a gun onto the campus.

“If a kid wants to get a gun on the campus, they will figure out a way to get it over the fence at night,” he said. “I want to see a police officer checking IDs in the front of every school. We are working on a lot of things to increase security. It’s been a concern since before the shooting.”

Boca Raton High graduate and Florida Atlantic High student John Carter said there are plenty of lapses in security at the school. He said he remembers being able to slip in and out of the campus “without even being noticed.”

“Every students at Boca High can find a way to get into Whole Foods for lunch without being detected,” he said.

Boca resident Luke Sherlock, whose niece was one of the 17 killed in the Parkland shooting, expressed similar safety concerns at Boca schools that his children attend. He said there was no security at Boca Middle when he picked up his kids from a track meet.

“Our children are at risk,” he said. “This is going to take all of us working together.”