MANATEE -- Local law enforcement officials plan to increase patrols at all schools this week throughout Manatee County.
Officers from the Bradenton police, Palmetto police and Manatee sheriff's department have committed to increase their presence at all schools, school district spokeswoman Margi Nanney said at noon Monday.
At least a dozen parents called the district Monday morning, questioning whether they should send their children to school today and gravely concerned about their safety.
The parents asked district officials to increase police protection immediately -- prompting, in part, the increased intensity of patrols.
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Manatee County school district officials met with law enforcement officials Monday morning to discuss how to best ensure the safety of students, teachers and employees.
"District leaders are aware of the heightened anxiety in the wake of what's happened in Connecticut," said Mike Barber, Manatee school spokesman. "Discussions about how to best respond are in progress right now.
Parents throughout Manatee County were hugging their children tighter. Some kept their kids at home Monday, concerned for their well-being. And the Connecticut shootings dominated conversations everywhere.
"I think about the gifts that are under the trees for those children that they'll never get to see," said Bradenton resident Deborah Clark as she left a local restaurant. "The parents will never get to see them open those gifts.
"Unimaginable horror," added Clark, who has a 1-year-old grandson and is the mother of Travis Clark in the rock band "We the Kings."
"For the other children who witnessed this, their innocence is gone," she said. "The worldwide innocence has been stolen. I am so sad."