TAMPA — Just as children and teens prepare for the first day of school on Aug. 10, so do Hillsborough County law enforcement.
Every school in the state of Florida must have an armed and trained first responder on campus during the school day, and agencies like the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Tampa Police Department have held training sessions for strengthen skills and strategies.
HSCO School Resource Assistants (SRDs) joined department SWAT members at middle and high schools across the county last month to complete four days of active shooter training scenarios. Speaking from outside Giunta Middle School in Riverview, HCSO Deputy Chief Donna Lusczynski said proactive behavior is being emphasized with SRDs across the county.
“It’s specifically for them to go to an active shooter if they were alone at school,” Lusczynski said. “We know we need to stop any threat immediately. We cannot stop and wait for others to arrive.
The sheriff’s office did not allow members of the media into the school during a July 28 training session, but released video footage showing deputies cleaning hallways, stairwells and classrooms, assessing threats, responding to hostages, and engaging with active shooter.
A point of importance for any assistant or school resource officer, Lusczynski added, is to have a thorough knowledge of the layout of the school in which they are based and others in their area.
“These assistants knowing the school well is key, and they do a great job in that regard,” Lusczynski said. “They walk around these schools every day to make sure the doors are locked, the perimeters are checked and our children are safe.”
It’s not just law enforcement officials tasked with school security who focus on active shooter situations. Police, firefighters and medical first responders were all at the Tampa Convention Center Aug. 2 to discuss active shooter scenarios, mass casualties and agency responsibilities during and after an incident.
Considered a tabletop exercise, its timing was to coincide with the start of the 2022 school year, according to the Tampa Police Department.
“Each after-action report after every major incident should answer three questions,” Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor said toward the end of the table. First, what happened? number two, what was our response; and number three, what would we do differently next time.
John Newman, Chief of Safety and Emergency Management with Hillsborough County Public Schools, attended the table and spoke about its importance related to school safety Aug. 3 at the newest facility in the district, Dorothy C. York Innovation Academy, a PK-8 magnet school at Apollo Beach.
“It’s not the first day of school we’re worried about or the last day, it’s every day our schools are open,” Newman said.
“Our biggest priority is always after and making sure our parents feel very comfortable entrusting their children to us every day,” Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis said at the conference. York Innovation Academy press.