The Clay County School District may end its district police force. Board members will discuss whether the Clay County Sheriff’s Office will oversee school resource officers.
Action News Jax spoke with a school board member who said there are benefits to this potential change. One of the reasons the change is being considered is due to the expertise and overall resources CCSO will bring with it.
In February 2019 the Clay County School Board made the decision to create its own police force. This came after all districts were mandated to have security following the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
But now, more than 4 years later, school board member Erin Skipper proposed to change it back.
“I would like to restructure our police department from the internal entity that we have and move it back to Clay County Sheriff’s Department,” Skipper said in a June 2023 school board meeting.
Skipper also said the number one reason is safety.
“We are in the business of education, not law enforcement.”
School board member Beth Clark said having Clay County Deputies oversee the police department will allow for more resources and expertise.
“There’s some items that CCSO has, that our district doesn’t have -- different departments such as victims advocate sex crime specialsits, video interviews, you know, the CCSO, that’s their business, they probably do 150 things and add SROs that would make it 151,” Clark said in an interview.
When the district first created its own police force, there was also a property tax hike approved to help fund the agency. One parent said she was not happy about this.
“I think it’s wasting my tax money,” Indira Moran, a Clay County resident said.
Moran said she wants CCSO to take over again.
“I think that it will be better for them to guard our schools.”
Board member Beth Clark said the cost to have CCSO take over would remain the same outside of transition costs.
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Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said that the department is fully prepared to work closely with the school district to ensure a seamless transition.
The vote for the proposed change is set for this Thursday at the Clay County School Board meeting. If it gets approved, negotiations for a budget and for a contract with the current school resource officers would still need to be discussed.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office released a statement regarding the possible change.
In August of 2023, The Clay County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by the Clay County District School Superintendent, David Broskie, in reference to beginning a dialogue regarding the status of the Clay County District Schools Police Department. Since then, CCSO and the Clay County School District have shared necessary information and budgetary numbers in anticipation of the school board’s upcoming vote.
Whatever the outcome of the school board vote, CCSO remains steadfast in our commitment to safeguarding the well-being of our children. We are fully prepared to continue the mission of keeping kids safe. If the School Board votes to retain the police department, we will continue our partnership with them.
Sheriff Michelle Cook stated, “To the parents of Clay County students, I want to emphasize that our children’s safety will continue to be our top priority. If the decision is made to transfer responsibilities to the sheriff’s office, we are fully prepared to work closely and collaborate with the Clay County School District to ensure a seamless transition”.
We will update our community once the school board reaches a decision.— Clay County Sheriff's Office