The top school and law enforcement officials in Livingston Parish are working together on a proposal to put an armed law enforcement officer inside every school in the district, a spokeswoman for the school system confirmed.
Delia Taylor, spokeswoman for the school system, said Superintendent Rick Wentzel asked Sheriff Jason Ard in recent weeks about the possibility of placing a school resource officer in each of the district's 45 campuses.
Taylor said Ard has told school officials he is considering asking voters to fund the school security enhancements by approving a half-cent sales tax proposal in November.
"It's my understanding the sheriff is looking at a funding option that would include enough funding for (school resource officers) on every campus," Taylor said.
Lori Steele, spokeswoman for Ard, confirmed in a statement that the sheriff was approached by Wentzel about increasing school safety measures.
"Nothing has been decided, although lots of options have been discussed," Steele said.
She said Ard will continue his discussions with Wentzel and the School Board after the Easter break and at an upcoming board meeting.
The proposal comes as school districts across the nation are discussing how to secure their campuses in the wake of the fatal shootings of 17 people in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Taylor said Wentzel wants to address safety concerns at the schools with additional school resource officers.
"Our superintendent is not for arming teachers. He believes officers are best trained for campus threats," Taylor said.
The school system has seven resource officers, who are responsible for all 45 campuses, Taylor said. One officer each from the Denham Springs and Walker police departments serves the schools within city limits, while the other five are sheriff's deputies assigned to geographic zones, she said.
The school district pays about half the cost of the officers through agreements with the law enforcement agencies, Taylor said.
A half-cent sales tax could raise from $8 million to $10 million annually, parish and schools sales tax estimate suggest.
It is unclear if the Sheriff's Office would take on the full cost of the officers and if the program would cost the full sum. It is also unclear if the officers would all be sheriff's deputies or if the sheriff would contract with local agencies.
Denham Springs Police Chief Shannon Womack and Mayor Gerard Landry met with Ard last week about the possibility of adding a school resource officer to each of the six schools within the city.
"Provided there is a funding mechanism put in place, we are completely supportive of it," Womack said. "We want a Denham Springs police officer put in every school in the city."
“We never know when the next active shooter is going to occur, and we want to be able to respond to it as best we can," he said.
Capt. John Sharp, spokesman for the Walker Police Department, said his agency also has been engaged in talks with the sheriff and the city about adding officers to the eight city schools.
He said discussions about adding school resource officers have been going on for the past two to three years but recent events have lent them a greater urgency.
"Certainly, the shooting in Florida brought it back to the forefront of our discussions. But it’s not something that is brand new," Sharp said.
For Sharp, as well, funding is the key to making the proposal a reality. He said school resource officers not only provide a response in case of a shooter but also deal with fights between kids, medical emergencies, contraband, intruders, parking lot accidents and irate parents.
"A school is really just a microcosm of the city," he said.
Walker police ran a series of active shooter drills at Walker Freshman High School on Tuesday while the kids are on spring vacation. Womack said he plans to do a similar training for his officers over the summer.
Ard spoke on the topic of school safety at a "See it, Say it," rally held at Walker High School last month.
WALKER -- Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said Friday he is taking a "zero tolerance" approach to school-related threats and social media posts.
Ard assured the students they were safe at school and said he was taking a "zero tolerance" approach to school-related threats. He encouraged kids to speak out about suspicious behavior and not to relay rumors.
The sheriff is expected to speak alongside Wentzel on the topic on the topic of school safety at a Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce breakfast on April 11.