Safe Schools Responsibilities include:
- Overseeing school resource officers and school crossing guards countywide.
- Coordinating safety, security, and emergency preparedness assessments, inspections, and training.
- Recommending staffing changes, equipment purchases and facility upgrades related to school safety and security.
- Collaborating with other departments within the school district on capital improvements related to school safety and security.
- Performing inspections of schools and district offices to ensure compliance with safety and security policies, and advising administration of non-compliance issues.
- Ensuring adherence to emergency management goals, including providing for restoration of services, functions, and facilities in a timely manner.
- Coordinating event and risk assessments with local law enforcement agencies.
- Fostering and sustaining professional relationships with school administrators, various outside agencies, private contractors, and community contacts.
- Ensuring coordinated responses by local law enforcement agencies and school officials to criminal activity on school campuses. Responsibilities related to school discipline remain solely with the Polk County School Board.
The Safe Schools Department is staffed through a contract with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and encompasses the School Resource Unit, School Safety Guardian, Gang Resistance Intervention Unit and School Crossing Unit.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Unit
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Unit is comprised of two sergeants and 19 school resource deputies. The Polk County School Board provides partial funding for these positions, with deputies assigned to eight high schools, eight middle schools and two alternative schools. The School Resource Unit provides services to 42 campuses throughout the county.
The School Resource Unit is responsible for the delivery of law enforcement services to the public schools in the unincorporated areas of the county. In addition to their regular duties, school resource deputies provide services to 24 elementary schools.
The School Resource Unit is also responsible for the coordination and supervision of Explorer Post 001. The program utilizes two school resource deputies as coordinators and 12 school resource deputies as advisers of students in the Explorer Post between 14-19 years of age. The primary goal of the post is to introduce students to the many aspects of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Gang Resistance Intervention Unit (GRIP)
The Gang Resistance Intervention Unit is comprised of one sergeant and eight deputy sheriffs. GRIP is a grant-funded unit focused on educating students on the negative effects of gangs, diverting at-risk students from their gang affiliations, and providing a gateway to successful academic and career opportunities.
School Crossing Unit
Two full-time civilian supervisors and eight part-time coordinators, assigned by geographical territories throughout the county, supervise the School Crossing Unit. They oversee approximately 160 part-time school crossing guards and 30 substitute school crossing guards. The members assigned to this unit are responsible for the safety of elementary school-aged children who have to cross major roadways on their way to or from school at the 131 crossing locations.
School Safety Guardian
The School Safety Guardian is an employee of Polk County Public Schools with extensive training from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. School Safety Guardians are based at elementary schools.
What is bullying? Who investigates bullying?
Bullying: Three criteria are necessary for an incident to be bullying:
- Any behavior that is unwanted, offensive, threatening, intimidating, insulting, causes discomfort or humiliation, or interferes with the individual’s school performance, which results in the victim feeling stressed, injured, or threatened
- The behaviors are repeated.
- There is an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim.
The behavior can take the form of:
- Physical aggression including but not limited to hitting, pushing, spitting, stalking, destruction of property, etc.
- Verbal aggression including, but not limited to name calling, teasing, making remarks that are insulting, intimidating, threatening, publicly humiliating, disrespecting or demeaning a person’s race, religion, disability, appearance, or sexual orientation.
- Emotional (relational) aggression including but not limited to spreading rumors.
Bullying investigations will be conducted by school administration and can be reported to the school or online at polkschoolsfl.com/bullying.
Why are they putting fences and locked gates around all of the schools?
Fencing is a way to secure the school campus while allowing natural surveillance and identifying boundaries between public and private spaces. Fencing is also used to define the edge of the campus and guide or direct visitors to the main entrance of the school for check-in.
What is an Explorer Program?
A law enforcement Explorer Post is a cadet program designed for students who are interested in any aspect of law enforcement, allowing individuals to learn about law enforcement careers. The Explorer Post is chartered by the Boy Scouts of America. The Explorer Post is also affiliated with the Florida Sheriffs Explorers Association and the Florida Association of Police Explorers. The program is designed to develop self-esteem, discipline, good citizenship, and leadership within the Post, and to strengthen the partnership between the Sheriff’s Office and the youth of our communities.
The mission of Explorer Post 001 is to develop desirable qualities of character and teach responsible citizenship and leadership, while introducing Explorers to a career in law enforcement.
What is GRIP? How can I have them contact my child?
The Gang Resistance Intervention Program (GRIP) was implemented in August 2015. The GRIP Unit’s primary mission is to divert at-risk youth from their gang affiliation and provide a gateway to successful academic and career opportunities. The purpose of the GRIP Unit is to identify and suppress crime, drugs and gang-affiliated activity in Polk County Public Schools. Working in collaboration with school personnel and community affiliates, the GRIP Unit is using a holistic approach to coach, mentor, deter and arrest juvenile offenders when necessary, and prepare them to be productive adults through opportunities that break the cycle of gang associations.
If you would like to have a member of GRIP contact your student, please contact the school resource officer/school resource deputy at your child’s school or ask an administrator.