Can Jacksonville schools be safer? Duval Schools, city team up with firm known for bullet-resistant doors, glass
FL Times-Union | By Emily Bloch | Updated June 2, 2022
The City of Jacksonville and Duval County Public Schools are bringing in a security company to evaluate the school district’s security protocols and provide guidance for potential improvements.
Armoured One, a company that specializes in doors and glass and is based out of Syracuse, New York, says its bullet-resistant products can slow down or prevent a shooter from getting into a classroom.
The company also conducts school safety analyses as one of its services and pivoted to selling clear face shields during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Curry told reporters the partnership will be factored into the city’s upcoming budget and should cost “under $100,000,” but did not elaborate on specifics or if schools will receive any of the company’s bullet-resistant products.
“I have a great team and they brought Armoured One to me,” Curry said. “They have been working with us and Duval County Public Schools for months.” He added that the partnership would have happened regardless of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Curry said groups have all been in talks for months about working together, but Duval Schools leaders said the discussions were mostly limited between city officials and Armoured One.
“The conversations mostly have been with the city,” Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene told the Times-Union. “The school district was a recent addition. Those conversations really have not been beyond surface [level] — introductions, they need to learn more about what we are doing in Duval County Public Schools and how we utilize our protocols and our guidelines before we can all have a robust conversation about where we are.”
During the press conference announcing the partnership, Mayor Curry compared turning to Armoured One for a school safety evaluation to a person with cancer turning to an oncologist for the best care.
“The company was founded by a SWAT operator. They’ve been studying active shootings. When faced with a problem, people turn to the experts,” he said. Curry said he plans to allocate money from the upcoming fiscal budget to put toward the partnership with Armoured One, but that a City Council resolution for additional funds wasn’t out of the question.
Public records show that former Jacksonville Mayoral Chief of Staff, Jordan Elsbury, who left his role in November, is registered on city documents as a lobbyist for Armoured One.
Central Square School District in New York just this week announced a $12 million project where Armoured One, which did a school safety and security analysis, is providing a variety of resources and tools including bulletproof glass and special door locks, the local Syracuse broadcast station reported.
School safety in Duval
Following the 2017 South Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, schools throughout the state deployed new, tougher security guidance and enhancements.
In Duval County, a combination of state security funding, as well as the recently enacted school sales tax, have funded updated security technology including surveillance camera systems, electronically locked doors, fencing and visitor sign-in technology.
Tom Czyz, the CEO of Armoured One, praised the City of Jacksonville for passing the half-cent sales tax, which helped fund security and technology upgrades across all Duval Schools.
“The State of Florida is a leader in safety and security,” Greene said. “I don’t think any of us can accurately imagine the pain of losing a child. That’s why today is so important. We’re in the hopes we never have to experience this in our county.”
Duval Schools Police Chief Greg Burton said that all Duval Schools campuses have either a School Safety Officer or guardian on campus who continue to receive training. Students and staff also undergo two different safety trainings: Standard Response Protocol and Run, Hide, Fight.
Burton added that new enhancements are on the way, including technology for every teacher to call a “Code Red” as needed.
“My heart is broken for those in Uvalde,” Burton said. “I have a 12-year-old son in the Duval County Public Schools system. Every day, I wake up and say to myself ‘I’m going to do this job for him as well as for the other 125,000 students and 13,000 employees in our care.’ My main job is to prevent anything like what happened in Texas from happening in Duval County Public Schools. I take that job very seriously.”
Burton and Greene both said the city’s partnership with Armoured One will help enhance the work already being done on campus.
“We have exceptional leadership and training, but adding the experience brought through Armoured One will only make us stronger,” Greene said. “I don’t want our students just to feel safe, I want them to be safe. And I know every parent and every employee also wants that.”
Emily Bloch is a youth culture and education reporter for The Florida Times-Union. Follow her on Twitter or email her. Sign up for her newsletter.