LAKELAND, Fla. — Florida's first graduating class of uniformed school guardians took an oath of office Monday evening in Polk County.
Eighty-seven school safety guardians were sworn in after undergoing 144 hours of intense training, a background check and a psychological examination.
After the Valentine's Day massacre at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, state lawmakers mandated that all Florida schools have either a school resource officer or an armed guardian on campus by the beginning of the 2018 - 2019 school year.
"We made sure that they understood (the) necessity to run in when others were running out," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Former Polk County teacher Brittnay Keene is among the dozens who will carry a gun on elementary school campuses this fall.
"I definitely want to know that whoever's in my son's school is going to keep him safe, and you know, the other students at the school," she said.
Blane Elliott, a retired deputy and a newly sworn-in school guardian, said the training is rigorous.
"(It's) very tough," he said. "It was a little tough for some, even for law enforcement officers."
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was among the 17 people killed in the massacre, attended the ceremony.
"This means so much to me that these kids are going to be safer, and that my daughter just didn't die in vain, and we made a difference," he said.
Jonathan Keen, a former state correctional officer, will earn $30,000 a year as a guardian, but he said he signed up because he wants to make a difference.
"This is more proactive, and that's what I'm looking for -- something a little bit more proactive than just watching an inmate in prison," he said. "Now I can prevent (students from becoming) one."
The program will cost more than $3.5 million. Most of it will be paid for by the state, but the school district must make up for a $400,000 shortfall.
Cox Media Group