Schools, like so many other “gun free zones,” are the perfect target for acts of violent terror because they are completely defenseless and everyone knows it.
That’s no longer the case for the campus of Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida. “If someone walks onto this campus, they’re going to be shot and killed,” said Principal Bill Jones about his plan to deal with armed intruders in an interview with the Bradenton Herald. “We’re not going to talk with them. We’re not going to negotiate. We are going to put them down, as quickly as possible.”
The Manatee School for the Arts is one of the few Florida schools that has taken advantage of the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which allows for alternatives to school resource officers. The program is named for Coach Aaron Feis who died protecting the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis. He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories pic.twitter.com/O181FvuHl3
— MS Douglas Football (@MSDEagles) February 15, 2018
Manatee School for the Arts has hired military veterans with combat experience and armed them with Kel-Tec RDB long guns and Glock sidearms.
“There’s no guarantee that the guardian’s going to be where he’s needed at the time, but you do the best,” Jones explains. “And certainly, the long gun gives you a better range.”
The Kel-Tec RDB is a semi-automatic rifle chambered in 5.56mm NATO. The RDB also features a 20+1 round capacity and downward brass ejection. These rifles are affordable, durable, and easy to service, but their most important feature may be the bullpup configuration, which allows for the range of a 17″ barrel in a compact frame.
Jones explains that range was a primary factor when selecting the armaments for his guardians. “If someone comes in with a handgun, great, than we have a tremendous advantage and we will use that advantage,” Jones said. Guardians armed with only 9mm handguns will have greater difficulty eliminating a threat across a large cafeteria.
Jones’ decision has come with the full support of the local law enforcement organizations.
“We want our SROs and guardians to be as well prepared as possible if God forbid the worst happens,” Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler said. “This was not a capricious decision.”
Tyler applaud’s Jones’ choice in firearms saying the school guardians should be “well-equipped, if not better” than any potential threat they may face based on recent school shootings. The guardians are also equipped with higher level body armor than traditional SROs.
Manatee School for the Arts currently has two guardians, a 15-year Army veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and a second veteran currently undergoing the training required by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.