• 316 people have applied to be armed school safety guards in Jacksonville

    By: Brittney Donovan , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Duval County leaders are reviewing hundreds of applications for armed positions in elementary schools.

    In Polk County, guards are already undergoing firearm and active shooter training.

    The guards in Polk are regular citizens and earn $30,000 per year.

    In Duval County, school safety assistants require little to no experience and earn $20,600 annually, or $12.50 per hour.

    The pay rate is among several concerns from parents in Jacksonville.

    Despite the pay, Duval County school leaders said 316 people have applied for the 105 positions at Jacksonville elementary schools.

    Tracy Pierce, Duval County Public Schools spokesperson, said the safety assistants will not have any teaching responsibilities. 

    “Their primary purpose is to prevent or abate an active assailant to stand in the gap between a bad guy that wants to do harm and that school community – those children and those teachers," he said.

    He said their duties will include monitoring entrances and exits to the school and watching out for breaches of security.​

    Pierce said he believes that, as with many jobs in education, people want the positions because they believe in their value and mission.

    Another concern often cited by parents is training. Candidates are required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some experience or training in a security-related field is preferred, according to the job description.

    Pierce said each applicant undergoes an extensive review process.

    “There’s a psychological evaluation. There’s a full background check. There’s a polygraph test. Then, once you’re hired, that would lead into the training,” he said.

    The safety assistants will undergo 200 hours of training -- 144 from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and 56 from the district.

    “A full police officer only has a little over 700 hours of training, and that includes things like DUI and traffic stops and evidence -- a lot of things that our school safety assistants aren’t going to need,” Pierce said.

    On Wednesday, several parents told Action News Jax that they will feel better sending their children to school knowing the guards are on campus.

    “I mean, anything that protects the kids and keeps schools safer, I think, is a good thing,” Albert Gentille, the father of an elementary school-age son, said.

    Duval County school leaders said the district is still accepting applications. The first group of guards is expected to begin training July 9.

    Click here to read more about the positions on the district’s website.

    Next Up: