Parent Rose Farley is looking for peace of mind in the wake of a South Florida high school shooting Wednesday afternoon.
Farley, a human resource assistant at the UF Center for Latin American Studies, has a son in daycare and a 17-year-old daughter at Newberry High School. She heard about the shooting Thursday morning on the radio and worries about a similar emergency happening in Gainesville.
“I don’t think anybody is safe if something like that can happen,” she said.
Alachua County Public Schools spokesperson Jackie Johnson said the school system sent an email to parents outlining school procedures and resources to keep students safe in case of a school shooting Thursday, a day after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“We can certainly relate to the concerns that parents have,” Johnson said. “But safety and security are an ongoing effort in Alachua County Public Schools, and all we can do is reassure parents that the safety and wellbeing of their children is our absolute highest priority.”
Over summer, all schools underwent safety training with local law enforcement, Johnson said. ACPS also keeps constant communications with local law enforcement agencies.
Despite school safety measures, Farley and other parents are concerned students can’t protect themselves in an emergency.
Phalanx Defense Systems hopes to help ease parents’ fears with bullet-resistant panels normally used by law enforcement that can fit easily into backpacks.
James Coats, the CEO of Phalanx, said the company has received hundreds of phone calls, emails and fax messages from Gainesville parents interested in buying panels since the news of the shooting first broke.
“I never thought as a body armor designer and manufacturer that I would ever have to make body armor for kids’ backpacks,” Coats said. “I think that until our governance is able to create a permanent solution, we have to be able to help in any way possible.”
A girl stares out the window of an Alachua County school bus on West University Avenue.