A concerned northeast Florida mother is not letting a hefty price tag prevent her from bringing some extra security to her child's elementary school.
The Flagler County woman is footing the nearly $12,000 bill for two months of having an armed deputy at the school amid rising concerns over safety after the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., massacre -- a measure the district had discussed, but hadn't gotten budget approval to do yet.
"The principal told her that we were working on a plan, but she said she wanted to go ahead, and she would be willing to take that on herself," Janet Valentine, superintendent of Flagler County School District, told NBC News. "We researched it, found out how much it would cost, let her know that we would want her to pay the district upfront for that, and we would contract with the sheriff's department, which is what we're doing."
The mother, who The Daytona Beach News-Journal identified as Laura Lauria of Flagler Beach, agreed, and handed school officials a check for just under $12,000. That money will pay for two months' security staffing at her daughter's school -- Old Kings Elementary -- at a cost of $32 an hour.
Lauria also made a verbal commitment to pay for the deputy through the remainder of the year after the two months are over, the News-Journal reported.
Flagler County School District has had armed deputies in all its middle and high schools for years, and used to have them in its five elementary schools, too. But finances forced the district to cut the deputies out of the elementary schools back in 2005, Valentine said.
Recently, the district has been revamping its emergency crisis and management plans, and is expected to present a new proposal for its 13,000 students to the school board in February, the News-Journal reported. Finding money in the budget to bring armed deputies back to the elementary schools was one of the items that was going to be discussed next month, but Lauria didn't want to wait until then.
"I was surprised, but ... accepted it as a very generous offer," Valentine said. "We do look to our community all the time for helping to solve problems here, and it's just amazing to me what the power of one can do to step forward and do something like that."
Flagler County School District has ten schools in total. The Flagler Palm Coast High School has two deputies; all other high schools and middle schools have one deputy. The school district pays for four deputies at a cost of $286,572, the city of Palm Coast pays for one, and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office also pays for one, reported the News-Journal.
Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre said he felt Lauria's generosity was "commendable," but not a long-term fix.
"It’s truly the spirit of generosity when a parent sees a concern not only for her child, but for all children in that school, and agrees to pay for security. But it also challenges our sheriff’s office and our school district to come up with a long-term solution," he told NBC. "So that’s what we’re now working on: trying to get school resource officers in all the elementary schools, hopefully in this school year, and then in the future as well.”
He’s not sure how much the sheriff’s office can contribute this year, though.
“We’re in the middle of a budget year,” he said. “We’re in a county that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, so the funding is tight for all levels of government. What we’re hoping for is for the federal government and the state government to step up and perhaps provide us with funding in this year for school resource officers."
Lauria has not returned calls from the media about her decision to pay for school security. Other parents told Florida's CFNews13.com they wanted to follow in her footsteps.
"I think that all parents should get together for the safety of their children, put money together somehow to provide security, if our city can't afford it," Christina Miller told the station.