PALM COAST, Florida -- Deputies based at Flagler County schools will soon add Tasers to their belts.
But before they do, Superintendent Janet Valentine will meet with Sheriff Don Fleming to discuss the protocol for using the electric stun devices and discuss the matter again with School Board members.
Valentine said Wednesday she wants to "make sure there's a few added protections for our students." She also said wants to make sure the five school resource deputies are trained in working with students with disabilities.
"This in no way is going to be used as a disciplinary measure," Valentine said. "This is just to make sure we have the tools in place to ensure the safety of 13,000 students."
The five deputies will also complete a refresher course on using the electric stun devices, Fleming said. He said he expects the Tasers will be used rarely, if at all.
"Our duty in the schools is to protect these children," Fleming said. "We're not going to go out and Taser someone every five minutes."
Deputies based in Volusia County schools will probably also add Tasers to their arsenal, though Sheriff Ben Johnson said there's no rush.
Flagler County officials started discussing the issue after an incident at Matanzas High School in August. A 16-year-old student is accused of head-butting Don Apperson, a school resource deputy who tried to break up a fight. The student was arrested and charged with felony battery.
School Board members decided Tuesday night the sheriff should decide whether school-based deputies should carry the devices, which use electrical current to disrupt muscle control. They directed Valentine to discuss the matter with Fleming.
There wasn't any policy preventing deputies from carrying the devices, but Fleming removed the Taser from the only school-based deputy who carried one in 2007 after he used it to subdue a special education student at Flagler Palm Coast High School.
Flagler's school resource deputies already carry guns and pepper spray. The deputies also attend programs offered by the Florida Association of School Resource Officers and the National Association of School Resource Officers, as well as additional in-house training on dealing with unruly youths, Fleming said.
All new hires also are Tasered and pepper sprayed "so they understand what the effects are," he said.
The Tasers are "just another tool in the hands of law enforcement that we have in our options other than the use of deadly force," Fleming said.
Jacob Oliva, principal at FPC, said he understands why some are hesitant to allow Tasers in schools but if deputies are trained in using the devices, it's appropriate for them to carry them.
The devices should only be used "if the police officer is attacked and they're in danger" and not to break up fights, he said.
"If our deputies carry Tasers, our hope is they would never have to use them," Oliva said.
School-based officers generally carry Tasers if their agencies use them, said Tim Enos, a spokesman for the Florida Association of School Resource Officers.
Enos, who oversees school-based deputies in Sarasota County, said deputies there have carried Tasers for at least three years. They've never used them on-campus. Statewide, they're rarely used in schools, he said.
Students generally respond to administrators and officers, Enos said.
"Usually when you tell somebody to stop, they do it," he said.
Volusia School Superintendent Margaret Smith said it's "probable" that school resource deputies will soon start carrying Tasers on campus.
Smith and Sheriff Johnson have already discussed the issue and Johnson told The News-Journal on Tuesday it's a "good idea" to have the deputies armed with Tasers.
Johnson is compiling information about the training deputies undergo and the protocols for Taser use to share with school officials before a final decision is made.
"I think the key is the sheriff's judgment about what's best for deputies to have on their persons," Smith said.
A handful of students at the Flagler County Youth Center on Wednesday afternoon said the deputies should be able to carry Tasers. Mike LoCastro, a sophomore at FPC, is a Police Explorer at the Flagler County Sheriff's Office.
"I think they should be able to carry Tasers," the 15-year-old said. "They can have a gun, which is more lethal."
LoCastro said he knows all of the school resource officers because he is an Explorer of two years and said he thinks they are "good cops" capable of making an appropriate decision about whether to use any of the tools at their disposal.
"If there was a problem with one officer, then there should have been consequences for that officer," he said, speaking of the 2007 incident. "I don't think the whole policy should have changed."
But Sebastien Denis, who also attends FPC, said the whole controversy is "dumb."
"I don't want Tasers here," he said. "I think they should let us say if we want them. Take a vote. I think they are too easy to abuse because they aren't lethal force."
Staff Writers Julie Murphy and Linda Trimble contributed to this report.