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Volusia County Council members vote no to adding more deputies to middle schools

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Volusia County Council members have denied the school district’s request to add deputies to middle schools that don’t already have one.

School leaders made the plea during Tuesday’s council meeting, citing a recent rise in bad behavior in younger students.

Every high school in the county has a school resource officer or deputy, but all middle schools do not.

After Parkland, all schools are required to have at least one armed person on campus, either law enforcement or a trained guardian.

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County leaders raised concerns about the district’s request coming in so late in the year and added that the schools have a larger budget than the county.

Deputies are paid for with the district paying 55%, and the sheriff’s office paying the remaining 45%.

The district said it has enough money to cover its end but can’t add more deputies without the money from the county.

“We already have a split. That’s how it has always been with the sheriff’s department. That is why we are asking, it is to continue what we already have in place, just adding more personnel,” said Patricia Corr, Interim Chief Operating Officer at Volusia Schools.

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Sheriff Mike Chitwood understands the need for support, adding that he has more than enough staff to help, if the money is available. However, he was disappointed in the district’s approach.

“I was a little disappointed that my friend, the superintendent, wasn’t here and that the CFO was not here and no one from the school board was here,” said Chitwood.

Council members also pointed to several city police departments that already staff schools and said it would not be fair to ask taxpayers in those areas to pay for cities that have refused the service.

“If I were sitting on a commission for Ormond, DeLand, New Smyrna or South Daytona, I would be pulling my resource officer immediately and just let Volusia County pay my way,” said Council member Troy Kent.

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Following the unanimous no vote, the school district sent a response:

“Volusia County Schools officials attended the Nov. 7, 2023, Volusia County Council meeting to support the Volusia Sheriff’s Office in requesting additional funding for seven additional school resource deputies for seven middle schools that do not currently have assigned law enforcement officers on campus.

As such, we are disappointed in the council’s decision not to support this request that was made in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office.

The School Board’s chief financial officer, school security specialist, and administration from all parties worked together leading up to the meeting to discuss the financial requests and ensure that the School Board was meeting the requirements of our interlocal agreement with the Volusia Sheriff’s Office. By prior contract, the School Resource Deputy Agreement states that VCS’s responsibility is 55% and VSO’s responsibility is 45% in paying for school resource deputies on our campuses.

This contract provides cooperative means to deter crime, provide safety and security to students, faculty, and parents on or about school premises.

The discussion that took place this morning regarding the district’s budget and reserves was not relevant to the financial considerations of the interlocal agreement.

VCS previously had school resource deputies in these seven schools, which were removed during the pandemic and replaced with school guardians due to staffing issues.

VSO has supported this initiative and assured VCS that they had the personnel to support these safety measures in our schools if the funding was approved.

The safety and security of our students and staff is, and always will be, the top priority of Volusia County Schools, the Volusia County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Balgobin, and all Volusia County Schools staff members.”

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