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Random checkpoints at Lee schools part of LCSO security plan; board to view options

School District of Lee County

Cypress Lake High School students were funneled through metal detectors at the start of the school day Wednesday causing moments of anxiety for students wondering what was going on to cause an increase in security.

Parent Lydia Black received a text message from her child telling her what just happened:
"We had to walk through metal detectors today -- was there a threat?"

Black said she tried to keep it light.
"We joked that it was probably the state of Florida looking for banned books," Black said. "Because we didn't know...and we joke when we worry."

Moments later, Black and other Cypress Lakes parents got their answers in an email from school principal Angela Roles:

"In an effort to keep your student safe and to maintain a secure campus, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is randomly setting up a body scanner on school campuses. As part of the process, students or parents are not informed ahead of time about the random weapons check. Today, they were here at Cypress Lake High School.

Roles said no weapons were found. She said the Lee County Sheriff’s Office could return at any time in the future.

Wednesday's security check was not a first at various public schools in Lee County.

Rob Spicker, a spokesman for the school district said security checks, some random and others because for a particular reason, have been going on since students returned from winter break:

Spicker said the portable scanners were being used to heighten security and better protect schools, students and staff.

A letter from the school board to parents Thursday evening explained the process:

"Good evening SDLC families,

The safety of our students and staff is our top priority so we want to inform you about a new security measure the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is implementing in the schools where they provide law enforcement officers as SROs. Deputies are randomly deploying a weapons detection system which can detect weapons or other contraband in a student’s possession.

The Sheriff’s Office determines when and where to deploy the system. All students entering the school where the system is set up will be screened. To keep our schools safe there will be no advance warning the weapons detection system is being used.

Students identified as carrying a suspicious item will be subject to search. They can face arrest and/or school discipline depending on the item(s) found. Any item not allowed at school will be confiscated.

The weapons detection system is another preventative measure we are taking with our law enforcement partners to keep our schools secure. Please take a minute to speak with your children so they are aware of these random searches and the consequences for bringing items to school that do not belong on campus.

Thank you for your understanding,
The School District of Lee County"

The Lee County Sheriff's Office acknowledged the searches but declined to provide details.

The Lee school board is also considering the purchase of a $3.2 million, mobile, concealed weapons detection system for use at schools throughout the district. The matter is part of the district April 11 consent agenda.

Public schools in Lee County opened Aug. 10. The following day a firearm was seized from a student's vehicle at South Fort Myers High School, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.

According to a report in the Naples Daily News there were 1,151 weapons-related incidents in Florida's schools during the 2020-2021 school year.

Lee schools saw a 30 percent increase in the number of weapons-related incidents during that time period with 48. Collier school had 37 such incidents compared to 14 in the 2019-2020 school year.

WGCU is waiting to hear back from the Florida Department of Education for the 2021-2022 school year weapons statistics.

The Sheriff's Office has also grown due to school security concerns.

In February, Sheriff Carmine Marceno announced the expansion of the Lee County Sheriff's Office School Threat Enforcement Team. School District of Lee County superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier was also in attendance.
Special to WGCU
In February, Sheriff Carmine Marceno announced the expansion of the Lee County Sheriff's Office School Threat Enforcement Team. School District of Lee County superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier was also in attendance.

In February, Sheriff Carmine Marceno announced the nine person Sheriff's Office School Threat Enforcement Team was expanding to include a licensed social worker and three mental health workers.

During a media briefing, Sheriff Marceno pleaded with parents to be more involved with their children by checking backpacks and keeping a close eye on their social media accounts. The partnership between Sheriff's Office and the School District is unified and a zero-tolerance policy stands with regard to school threats, Marceno said.

School shootings around the United States is a main reason for such heightened security at many schools. Just this year there have been 16 school-shooting related deaths and 21 injuries.

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