Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida employs school guardian to protect kids from school shooter
Harold Verdecia, 39, was an infantryman in the U.S. Army, completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been shot at, and he has fired back.
“That’s just the job,” he said.
Now he patrols the hallways of Manatee School for the Arts, strapped with a Kel-Tec “Bullpup” rifle and a Glock 19X. Verdecia isn’t there to get to know the kids, break up fights or do the typical community-policing that school resource officers typically do, said MSA Principal Bill Jones.
Verdecia has one job: Stop an active shooter.
Jones said if a shooter arrived at the campus, they would most likely be carrying a rifle, wearing body armor and looking to inflict as much carnage as quickly as possible. He said even though the Palmetto Police Department will respond, he needs someone on scene who can return force with force.
In order to become a guardian, Verdercia completed the 144-hour training course that the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office ran for the school district, plus additional training to be qualified to carry the rifle. District general counsel Mitch Teitelbaum said while school district guardians are trained using 9-millimeter Glocks, charter schools have the freedom to arm their guardians with other weapons.
Jones said Verdecia earns more than $50,000 a year, plus benefits, to protect the more than 2,000 students at MSA. He is hoping to hire another guardian soon, and Jones was reviewing applications in his office on Thursday.