Sheriff Whidden explains the Guardian Program at school forum

Sheriff Steve Whidden explains the Guardian Program at the School Safety Forum on April 9. (Submitted photo/Megan Narehood)

Sheriff Steve Whidden explained the requirements of volunteers in the Guardian Program after having those in attendance at the School Safety Forum, at LaBelle High School, envision a hypothetical school shooting.

“The Parkland shooting scared the hell out of me,” said Whidden. He said he realizes if someone does their homework they can enter our schools. “The first person a shooter will kill is the deputy,” said Whidden, “what happens then?”

Whidden told citizens in attendance to “stop and think about the situation.”

“The shooter is walking through the halls with an AK-47, a 12 gauge, or a pistol, and shooting one child at a time, 911 calls are being made and going to the dispatch. And, we have to wait for a road response. In any county in the state, or the country, a three-minute response time is really fast.”

Whidden said the parkland shooter killed 17 people and left the campus in under three minutes. “The only reason he only killed 17 people is because his weapon jammed,” said Whidden.

Whidden said he “agrees 100 percent with hardening our schools,” having metal detectors and bullet-proof glass, “but, it isn’t a fool proof plan.” He said someone is going to figure out how to get into our schools.

“When a shooter is standing in our cafeteria at 10 or 11 a.m. with a firearm, what then? We don’t know where the School Resource Officer is going to be on campus. We need someone there who will be able to engage and act quickly when minutes and seconds count,” Whidden said.

Volunteers will have to be of a certain type of mindset that fits what they may have to do. “Volunteers in the Guardian Program may have to kill another child if that child comes in to murder other children,” he added.

Whidden explained the requirements volunteers in the Guardian Program will have to meet and the training they will undergo. “Volunteers will have recurring psychological testing, polygraphs, background and drug screens, they will have 132 hours of active shooter training, 12 hours additional training, will have to shoot 1,300-1,500 rounds and pass with 85 percent accuracy.”

Whidden said the volunteers will have more training then the deputies that are already on the school campus. “There is nothing special about a deputy other than the training. I’m going to be 100 percent confident that volunteers are proficient in what they are doing and that they are safe.”

The number of volunteers will be unknown, the carry method will be a concealed carry on an undershirt with a “totally enclosed secure pocket that cannot come out unless they physically remove it themselves” said Whidden. The gun will not be fully cocked and loaded.

“If someone comes into our school tomorrow and kills the deputy, if the deputy calls in sick, or is on the opposite end of the campus, how do you stop him?” Whidden asked. “I can enact a plan that will keep your children safe if a school shooter was to come on campus,” he said.

“When a shooter comes in, he is going to have a big mean gun and will do a lot of damage,” said Whidden.

Megan can be reached at

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