Charter schools on hold for new school police officers


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Officers with the newly-formed Clay County School Police Department won’t be stationed at the county’s charter schools for at least a month.

Discussion about expanding the police force was postponed until the board’s next meeting on Oct. 3.

“I’m going to make a motion that we (postpone) this item,” school board member Ashley Gilhousen said. “I received (school board attorney Bruce Bickner’s) legal opinion this morning and he raised some valid questions about our jurisdiction and insurance.”

Bickner didn’t reveal what he told Gilhousen. But he said he would post his opinion online. That opinion hasn’t been posted by press time.

Gilhousen said she believes the school district police department should cover all of the county’s public schools, which she said includes the district’s two charter schools.

Board member Janice Kerekes said during the August meeting she doesn’t believe charter schools are public schools.

Clay County resident Sarah Davis, whose child attends a charter school in the district, said she’s concerned that her child’s school isn’t receiving the same level of security as other schools.

“I am excited that we are providing funding for the safety of our students in the county, but I am concerned that we’re only protecting some of the students and not all of the students,” Davis said.

The Florida Department of Education’s web site classifies charter schools as public schools, saying: “Charter schools are public schools of choice.”

FDOE said charter schools operate under a performance contract, or a “charter” which frees them from many regulations created for traditional public schools while holding them accountable for academic and financial results. As such, the superintendent, who is the educational authority for schools, does not have jurisdiction over what is taught in charter schools or how things are taught – that’s up to each charter’s board.

Another key difference between charter and traditional public schools is funding. Both receive money from local millage rates and the Florida Education Finance Program, while charter schools have exclusive access to federal funding programs like the Charter Schools Program Planning and Implementation grant and the Dissemination grant.

The board likely will address charter school security at its October meeting.

Gilhousen told parents not to worry about their children’s safety at charter schools.

“The two charter schools have a safety plan for the school year so it’s not a rush for the plan tonight,” Gilhousen said.


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