Citing safety concerns, the School District of Manatee County began performing security checks and limiting attendance at public meetings on Tuesday.
The new safety precautions come after a series of public meetings that were filled with controversy over the school district’s takeover of Lincoln Memorial Academy, a charter school in Palmetto.
The district’s armed school security guards, known as guardians, checked bags and searched guests with metal detector wands before they were allowed to enter the School Support Center at 215 Manatee Ave. W. where all public school board meetings are held.
Bradenton Police Department officers were positioned outside and within the building, and a sign taped to the front door read: “No firearms permitted unless authorized by state law.”
The new security measures were in place for a school board workshop on Tuesday afternoon and a board meeting in the evening.
School district spokesman Michael Barber said security concerns for the district and school board were raised during a recent meeting with Bradenton police.
A notice issued by the school board outlines the school district’s new safety procedures, which include changes in the seating format and a limit on the number of people allowed to attend public meetings.
The list includes the following new procedures:
- All individuals attending school board meetings will be subject to search and/or metal detector screening.
- Admittance to the School Support Center for public meetings will be limited to the 78 seats for guests in the board room. Everyone allowed in the board room must have a seat. (Including chairs for board members and administrators, there are 91 seats in the board room. A sign outside of the room states that maximum capacity is 120 people.)
- The district will no longer have an overflow area for guests who do not have a seat in the board room. Instead, individuals who do not have a seat in the board room and wish to make make a public comment will have to wait outside of the School Support Center until they are called in to speak.
- Anyone who disrupts the proceedings of the school board will be escorted out of the meeting.
“These measures are meant to ensure the safety and security of all citizens participating in matters before the school board,” the document states.
The notice was issued to everyone attending a public hearing and school board meeting at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.
The subject of the hearing was the district’s Student Progression Plan and changes to school board policy.
The document states that the measures will be in place for all future school board meetings.
However, Barber said that it is yet to be determined if all of the security measures will remain in place beyond Tuesday’s meetings.