PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WMBB) — There might be parts of the country where a sign in front of a school that warned of deadly violence against anyone threatening children would be controversial.
The Panhandle is not one of those places. Gulf County schools are now equipped with signs warning potential school shooters to think twice. It is a sentiment that was unanimously supported on a now viral Facebook post.
“The signs read, ‘Warning: Staff members are armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force.’
Gulf Superintendent Jim Norton placed them at the entrances and exits of the county’s schools.
“I believe in throwing the kitchen sink at something,” he said. “If that’s the last thing a bad actor sees and they turn around and walk away, then they’ve achieved what they are. They are not our frontline of defense. That is the last thing that somebody that might think about doing the unimaginable might read and hopefully turn around and walk away.”
A photo of the signs caught fire on Facebook, with almost 600 shares as of Thursday and not a single detracting comment. In fact, people applauded the signs, saying, “I think every school should be like that” and “it made my hair stand up I was so proud.”
“As an educator, I feel great about it. I have a child here myself,” said Jessica Brock, the principal of Port St. Joe Elementary School. “In charge of 500 students here and it’s unfortunate this is where we are in the world today but I feel like this is where we are and this is what is necessary to keep them safe.”
The school district has been part of the guardian program since 2019, which means school employees can volunteer to be trained and armed to help prevent or abate active shooter situations.
“Our job is to protect and serve these kids,” said Sandy Quinn, a Port St. Joe Elementary teacher. “We are here to educate these kids but also make sure that they are safe while they are at school and we take it very seriously here in Gulf County.”
Every school also has assigned school resource deputies from the sheriff’s office as another line of defense.