Milton Council Recommends Guardian Program for Additional School Safety

Posted on July 15, 2021 by Romi White

The Milton City Council passed a July 13 resolution proposed by Councilwoman Shannon Rice, encouraging Santa Rosa County School District to implement the Guardian Program.

The resolution noted how the Florida Legislature enacted the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program as a resource to provide an additional layer of safety for schools in the aftermath of the February 14, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A gunman that day killed 14 students and three adults and wounded 17 others. The program is named after Feis, a coach who witnesses say ran toward the gunshots and threw himself in front of students and died while using his body as a shield to protect them from the gunfire.

In its initial report, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission found that having Guardians in schools is the best way to ensure highly trained personnel are in place to respond immediately in the event of a school shooting.

Subsequently, state funds are granted to participating Sheriff’s Offices to cover the screening and training costs for each Guardian. Also, Guardians receive a one-time stipend of $500 for serving in the program.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson has stated he supports implementing the program as an additional measure of school security to supplement, but not replace, the existing school resource officer program, which provides one deputy in each Santa Rosa public school.

Guardians are armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises. They are either school employees who volunteer to serve in addition to official job duties or personnel hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian, according to the Florida Department of Education (FDOE).

Per FDOE, Guardians must complete 132 total hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training and 12 hours of diversity training, as well as rigorous psychological and drug screenings. Additionally, potential Guardians must achieve a higher pass rate than law enforcement recruits on the firearms portion of their training.

The City’s resolution also mentioned that Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran on July 2 issued a letter to Barber and the school board which “strongly” recommended the district implement Guardians.

Corcoran pointed out that two-thirds of Florida’s 67 counties have already implemented the program.

Escambia, Okaloosa and Walton Counties utilize it, and the City of Milton wants Santa Rosa School District to follow suit. The council by a 6-1 margin passed the resolution encouraging action.

“We support the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program for the schools within Santa Rosa County. We encourage the School District of Santa Rosa County to implement the (program) in the schools under its jurisdiction and control,” stated the resolution.

However, Mayor Heather Lindsay via letter on Wednesday asked the council to rescind it after she had a morning conversation with Superintendent Karen Barber.

“Superintendent Barber did not expect the resolution offered by Councilwoman Rice. Had she known it was being considering (she) would have appeared at our meeting last night to provide information for consideration,” stated Lindsay, who listed several reasons the council should reconsidering, including a claim that “not a single person has attended a school board meeting to address safety needs in (Santa Rosa County) School District or to request the Guardian Program.”

“Rather than a resolution encouraging the School District to implement the program when we have no information about any specific needs, the City Council of Milton should express its confidence in the Superintendent and the School Board to investigation the options and make decisions on the issues within their authority,” Lindsay said.

Barber is scheduled to meet July 21 with officials from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, City of Milton and City of Gulf Breeze to review information gathered from other districts which have already implemented the Guardian Program and develop a recommendation to take to the school board, which will make the final decision on the matter.

The next school board meeting will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 22 at the school district’s headquarters, located at 5086 Canal Street in Milton.

In addition to speaking during the meeting’s public forum, school board members may be reached through email via:,,, and