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Judge Sides with Charter Schools in Safety Fight

March 13, 2019 - 9:00am

In a decision that could have statewide implications, an administrative law judge Tuesday ruled that the Palm Beach County School Board is required to assign safety officers to charter schools under a law passed last year.

Judge John Van Laningham sided with Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in Palm Beach County and wanted the School Board to provide “safe school” officers. The School Board refused, leading to the legal battle.

Van Laningham, in a 43-page order, pointed to a law passed after the February 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that included a requirement for safe-school officers.

“In sum, after a thorough study of the statute's plain language, including a review of related statutes at the board's request to determine whether some latent ambiguity exists, the undersigned concludes that (the law) clearly and unambiguously requires school boards and superintendents --- not charter school operators --- to ‘establish or assign’ SSOs (safe-school officers), with the assistance of local law enforcement agencies, to every public school within their respective jurisdictions, including charter schools,” Van Laningham wrote.

The judge indicated the ruling was the first of its kind, describing the dispute as a “first-impression question of statewide interest,” as schools and districts try to comply with the post-Parkland requirements.

Charter schools are public schools that often are operated by private entities. The dispute about safe-school officers comes amid broader clashes across the state about the interplay between school boards and charter schools.

The 2018 law required placing safe-school officers at all public schools. That can include using law-enforcement officers or “guardians,” who are trained school personnel allowed to carry guns. Palm Beach County does not use guardians, according to Van Laningham’s ruling.

Renaissance requested in March 2018 that the School Board provide a full-time safety officer at each of Renaissance’s charter schools, but the board denied the request. The board also later declined a request to mediate the issue, which ultimately led to the dispute going before Van Laningham, the ruling said.

“There is no dispute in this case that, under the safety act, one or more SSOs must be assigned to each charter school facility in the district, including RCS's (Renaissance’s) six schools,” the judge wrote. “The question is, whose duty is it to assign SSOs to charter schools? The board's answer, clearly expressed in word and deed, is this: It's not our job; rather, the obligation falls to each charter school to arrange police protection for its own campus, as though each charter school were a school district unto itself.”

Van Laningham said he was not deciding issues such as who is required to pay for the officers.

“While disputes concerning this financial obligation might someday be ripe for adjudication, the narrower question of law … is, simply, who must satisfy the duty to ‘establish or assign’ SSOs at charter schools,” he wrote. “The plain and obvious answer to this pivotal question is: the district school board and district superintendent.”


Just write it into the contracts for these Charter schools. The judge just gave you the answer, you have to provide it by law, but they can pay for it. Problem solved, next...

Talk about having your cake and eating it too! For profit charter schools have been buying state politicians for years, without them needing to meet ALL the requirements that public schools do. It is the GOP in Tallahassee that has destroyed public schools by taking money away from the children. The state lottery was initially supposed to augment our public schools, but instead the GOP has continually stripped tax dollars away from public schools and depended on lottery dollars alone. No wonder Florida students score near the bottom in the nation.

NO! Unacceptable.

NO "for-profit" charter schools. Period.

Why not?!?... you pay for everything else you use & consume: why shouldn't you pay for this??? (It's gonna be FAR CHEAPER than legalized marijuana, and the unintended consequences of THAT poorly thought-out potential debacle...)

because the Constitution guarantees that the Gov't will provide for a high quality education provided with tax dollars. Remember that crazy thing about the rule of law called the Constitution? There are several things that the private sector should have no part in and making a profit off of, should never, ever happen, and education and public safety are two of them. The motivation should be on the education and not what everything else is concerned with, money. Fortunately, our founding fathers realized this, so idiots like you and others couldn't screw it up like everything else revolving around money in this country.

so says the fat, lazy, unemployed bigot from NY who doesn't have any children, nor pay any taxes to support the argument. You shouldn't even have a say tiny. Haul tail back to NY and get a job poser...

You seem to have a fixation on marijuana. Face it, marijuana has been readily obtainable by any 8 to 80 year old anywhere in Florida for the past three decades. Enriching those who supply this substance is a fools game and the results have been predictable. Let it go and direct your enthusiasm for solutions to problems to the actual problem, instead of springboards to preach the false legal marijuana means proliferation of marijuana mantra.

NO,...I have a fixation on stupidity and ignorance,... and the "phoney marijuana mantra" is far older than you, and yours, and just as tragically compromising to both..!

Therein lies the result of the "Universal Law of Unintended Consequences": (Bet you Liberal-Bent politicians "didn't see THAT one comin"...! Tsk, Tsk...

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