Message on school safety

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Sheriff speaks in aftermath of Broward deaths

Hello, Marion County, I'm your Sheriff, Billy Woods.

I want to take a moment to talk to our citizens… and our parents… about the horrible tragedy that occurred at a Broward County High School in South Florida yesterday. I want to tell you what we do here in Marion County to protect our children and to give you a sense of comfort during these worrisome times.

Currently, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office has 12 school resource officers (also called SROs), who are seasoned deputy sheriffs. They are placed in 12 schools, seven in middle schools and five in high schools. These SROs are trained, equipped and willing to protect the children of Marion County at a moment’s notice. We conduct active shooter training on a regular basis at different schools, so that staff at each school is experienced with this vital training. We have three active supervisors in our Juvenile Unit and an additional roving SRO to help monitor and address incidents at our schools as they happen. Our SROs are in constant contact with our Patrol deputies as well, which helps us address incidents quickly and responsibly.

The MCSO takes ANY kind of threat to our student’s safety EXTREMELY seriously. You can DEFINITELY expect a visit from us if we receive information that your child has threatened violence towards others at our schools. Also, if we find that you are trespassing on school grounds, you will be subject to arrest. Parents can also expect to see an increased presence of our deputies at schools in an effort to discourage anything like this from ever happening.

We would like to encourage our students to SAY SOMETHING if they see something. Please encourage your children to come see one of my deputies if they feel like something is just not right. If they don’t feel comfortable doing that, there is a 24/7 hotline called “Speak Up” that students can call to report any suspicious activity. The Speak Up number is 1-866-SPEAK UP, and students can remain anonymous through this reporting. They can also call the Marion County Crime Stoppers at 352-368-STOP.