No metal detectors, more mental health: Here’s how an SRO wants to protect schools

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — From his hotel room just outside of Orlando, one of the highest-ranking school resource officers in the nation watched the news unfold.


Reports of gunshots. Kids running away from campus. A teenager arrested and charged with attempted murder after firing at another classmate. Calls for reform from parents.

It’s a scene that plays out again and again in the United States and one Mo Canady is familiar with. Almost every time, a news station calls and he analyzes the situation. As a retired SRO and executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, Canady coordinates with thousands of officers and psychologists across the country and directs guidance, training programs and annual conferences.

The past two years have kept him busy.

READ: SCPS leaders assessing security changes after student shot on Seminole High campus

“For an adolescent to say it seems normal is sad, first of all,” he said. “That is their reality … It is becoming more normalized. That concerns me tremendously.”

Unsurprisingly, Canady called school violence a widespread problem and almost immediately began breaking down solutions that could prevent more instances in Central Florida’s districts.

Metal detectors, which have been at the center of some conversations since the shooting, weren’t among them for several reasons.

Photos: Seminole High student shot on campus, gunman in custody, police say

“If you’re going to search all those book bags, and search all those students, that takes quite a commitment,” he began.

Then, he pivoted to the layout of Seminole High School, which has multiple entrances and many different buildings in its campus-like atmosphere.

“If the perimeter is not secured, and you’re scanning everyone through a metal detector at the one primary entrance, you’re creating a false sense of security because people can still get things in,” he explained.

REAL: SCPS leaders assessing security changes after student shot on Seminole High campus

So, what solutions does he think will improve the environment? Canady said SROs have a big role to play — not as rule enforcers, but as trusted adults whom a student can talk to or tip off to help mediate a situation before it erupts.

Seminole High School had three SROs on duty Wednesday, the district’s superintendent said. A police report of the suspect’s interview with detectives suggested there may have been a bullying situation in the days leading up to the event. The suspect said he had spoken to the school’s vice principal. It’s not clear why he didn’t contact an SRO.

Canady also believes more resources needed to be put into mental health, adding that this was a big focus of his annual conferences.

READ: Boy, 16, charged in connection with shooting at Seminole High School appears before judge

“We’re two years into a worldwide pandemic,” he said. “For anyone to say that their mental health has not been affected by this, I don’t think they’re being honest.”

Finally, parental accountability was brought up. While police haven’t said how the suspect got the gun, some have been calling for the suspect’s parents to face consequences like the parents of the suspected Michigan school shooter.

Canady said parents have a major responsibility to keep weapons accounted for at home, but sometimes even the best efforts aren’t enough.

READ: Winter Park police chief faces judge after being arrested on domestic violence charges

“Every case stands on its own one way or the other,” he said.

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