Osceola School board member Jay Wheeler believes that students need to feel safe at school. But he does not believe that the school district is responsible for that safety.
Just two days after a man walked into a St Cloud elementary school and insisted that someone was trying to kill him; Wheeler told ABC affiliate WFTV that it is not the school districts job to keep school students safe.
In the St Cloud incident, four staff members rushed to get 20 children to safety after Glenn Bay forced his way into the Lakeview Elementary School cafeteria on December 18. St Cloud police told WFTV that Bay was high on drugs.
To explain his position, Wheeler told WFTV that schools do play a role in student safety, but he does not believe that the district can afford to be in charge of safety. The school district told reporters that they did not consider the incident to be a security breach, but after the incident parents are now seriously questioning the safety at Osceola County school campuses.
When WFTV asked Wheeler about the incident, he said:
First off, this was during extended day. That wasn’t during the regular school day.
WFTV reporter Nancy Alvarez fired back on the Wheeler, saying:
But parents are saying that shouldn’t matter! There were kids there!
Wheeler responded to Alvarez by saying:
And to that end, they need to be asking why local law enforcement aren’t willing to provide officers before and after school.
Wheeler told WFTV that if any parents are concerned about their kid’s safety at school, then they need to direct their anger to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office or other local law enforcement, not the school district. Wheeler went on to tell WFTV:
If they want to call it passing the buck they can, but we are an educational institution. They are law enforcement and security agencies. We are not. They have a budget for law enforcement and they’re going to have to suck it up and give us more officers on campus at their expense. That’s what their job is. Their job is to keep us safe. Our job is to educate kids.
When confronted about the request from Wheeler, St Cloud police Chief Pete Gauntlett told WFTV that adding more armed officers won’t make schools safer. He told WFTV:
Everybody is in the business of security.
But parents across the county are saying that the district is trying to play down the incident that happened in St Cloud and says that the school district needs to take more responsibility in making sure school campuses are safe. Pedro Lira, a parent, told WFTV:
I’m not saying they should carry guns or nothing like that. But they know what their role is. Not just to teach, but to protect as well.
Wheeler told WFTV that he was personally working on finding money to add more security cameras to schools across the county.