By: Jarret Romanello, The St. Lucie Post
Feature photo by: Shawn O’Brien
August 6, 2021
FORT PIERCE -With summer break coming to an end, class is in session for the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. Before kids head back to school next week, deputies took part in three weeks of training to serve as school resource deputies for over 40,000 students in the county. “We want to make sure our deputies understand the magnitude of what their position means before the school year starts,” said St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Hester.
Deputies attended a week-long training over the summer at Indian River State College by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). The 40-hour program exposes deputies to the responsibility of being a mentor and law enforcement official.
Brittany Duran joined the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Program when she was 15 years old to learn about law enforcement. After being positively influenced through the program, she pursued a career with the Sheriff’s Office after graduating from Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie.
Deputy Duran begins this school year as school resource deputy for Lawnwood Elementary in Fort Pierce and believes the NASRO training will benefit her with the new assignment. Deputy Duran hopes to reach her students the same way Sheriff’s Office staff impacted her as an explorer. “It’s the kind stuff we do that strengthens our relationships with kids, families, and educators,” Chief Deputy Hester told The St. Lucie Post.
Data from NASRO shows that well-designed school safety programs and well-trained school resource deputies lead to fewer arrests at school, less student violence, and an increased feeling of safety for students and staff. “It’s the best training model in the country,” said National Safe School Coalition President and NASRO instructor Don Bridges.
Following NASRO training, St. Lucie County Sherriff’s Office deputies attended the Florida Association of School Resource Officers (FASRO) Annual Training Conference in Orlando. During the conference, deputies learned how to manage challenging behavior, navigate social media, and foster relationships with students of diverse cultures and special populations.
Fort Pierce Central High School’s Principal, Monarae Miller-Buchanan, understands the importance of carefully selected and specially trained school resource deputies in her school. With close to 3,000 students on campus, school safety is a top priority to her.
Ms. Miller-Buchanan looks for deputies to act or react in times of crisis with knowledge and competency and says, “Our students and staff feel a sense of security and safety because of our School Resource Deputies.”
Ms. Miller-Buchanan points to Deputies Bill Minogue and Pat Seidel and their proactive approach of getting into classrooms and talking to students to solve problems before they occur. “An important quality of a school resource deputy and one that we see here at Fort Pierce Central is their ability to talk to – not at students,” Principal Miller-Buchanan said.
School resource deputies completed the summer training with a week of in-service training at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce, covering topics including Code Red and Threat Assessments.
Each year deputies conduct threat assessments at all schools to improve security and implement new measures to keep students and staff safe. At John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce, Deputy John Horowitz, a 24-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, holds monthly meetings with the school’s threat assessment team to maintain a continuous dialogue with staff over safety protocols.
Deputy Horowitz even teaches his students how to respond in an emergency. Deputy Horowitz oversees one of the state’s only school-run teen Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The club of 24 students receives training through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) in disaster preparedness, CPR, and Stop the Bleed – a program designed to teach civilians life-saving measures.
With three weeks of training complete, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputies are ready to keep our schools safe and shape student’s lives.
Chief Deputy Brian Hester says, “Protecting our children, teachers and school staff is a top priority for our agency. Our school resource deputies fill a vital role in ensuring safety while also mentoring the next generation in our community.”