By Tamas Mondovics

Under the supervision of the Community Outreach Division School Resource Section, dozens of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies supervise many middle and high schools throughout the county, while many others are served by Tampa Police Department.

The work of the School Resource Deputies (SRDs), who are divided into two squads, each supervised by one Corporal and one Sergeant per squad, is by no means mundane, presenting deputies with a list of challenges as they work with students through programs that provides early intervention, counseling, education and other appropriate community-based initiatives to improve the behavior of students before major issues arise.

“The safety of our children is a priority at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Gee. “In partnership with the Hillsborough County School Board, deputies are assigned to work within Hillsborough County high schools and middle schools. School Resource Deputies are responsible for law enforcement, safety and security, mentoring and providing a positive role model for the students.”

HCSO public information officer, Larry McKinnon, recently provided a few examples of cases in order to help parents and area residents get a better idea of how Hillsborough County School Resource Deputies, Hillsborough County School Officials and students work together to help keep our schools safe.

“Several of these cases were discovered after students provided information to school officials or deputies,” McKinnon said.  “One case involved a deputy who was trying to break up a violent fight and ended up getting attacked himself.”

The incidents took place at McLane Middle School, located at 306 Knights Ave. N. in Brandon and involved a 14 and a 15-year-old female student, each charged with assault and battery of law enforcement resulting in their arrest on school campus.

According to School Resource Deputy, Chad Keen, the two teenage girls were fighting at the McLane Middle School bus ramp.

Keen reported that he tried several times to physically and verbally separate the two teens without any success.

“As the fight continued, a large crowd quickly began to build, creating further danger of the situation escalating,” McKinnon said. “The deputy continued with his efforts to separate the two teens when the combatants turned and began striking the deputy, who then deployed his taser on one of the combatants. He then took her into custody.

Officials said that the second student fled on foot and was later apprehended by a HCSO District 1 Patrol at her residence in the City of Tampa. Both students were transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

In a separate incident where a teen was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a weapon on school grounds, further demonstrates the dangerous situations local SRDs often have to deal with.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what led up to the incident or why it occurred, earlier this month, when deputies responded to Jennings Middle School at 9325 Governor’s Run Dr. in response to a stabbing.

Fifteen-year-old, Michael Johnson, was armed with a four-inch serrated steak knife and stabbed his schoolmate, Neco Gainey, 14, in the back, who was then transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Michael Johnson was transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center on the above charges.

While such cases occur locally, Gee confirmed that one of the main purposes of the SRD program is for students and deputies to develop partnerships and to promote respect and trust between them.

“Partnerships like this can open a line of communication between the SRD and students which can provide information to law enforcement,” Gee said. “The information can not only prevent crime, but assist in ensuring safety for students and staff.”

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