VERO BEACH, Fla. — Parents in Indian River County are calling for action following the arrest of a 17-year-old student Vero Beach High School student who, authorities said, brought a loaded gun to school and made threatening comments toward another student.
This marks the second student arrested for making threats in just over a week at the same high school.
Nearly all of the parents who talked to NewsChannel 5 Thursday had a lot to say about what they feel needs to be done.
“This could have been a lot worse," said Dawn Thornton.
Thornton shook with emotion as she talked to WPTV crews outside the high school a day after the incident.
"Please help these kids," said Thornton, whose son and daughter attend the high school.
Thornton is one of more than a dozen parents who shared concerns with WPTV in the wake of Wednesday's incident. Some didn't want their names associated with the story, but allowed WPTV to share their comments.
“That was scary to hear something like that," said one parent.
Many parents reacted in fear, but were not shocked by the incident.
"It doesn't surprise me," said a sophomore student's parent.
"We’ve seen more guns at school. That’s going to happen," said parent Stacey Rodolico.
According to the latest data available from Florida Department of Education, the number of weapons seized on school campuses across the state increased by 17%.
During the 2019-2020 school year, Florida school officials seized 983 weapons. From 2020-2021, they seized 1,151 weapons.
This is another reason many Indian River County parents are calling for action.
"I want more security," said one parent, who added she thought metal detectors were the answer. "That's exactly what I would like to see."
Many parents agreed with her.
"In all honesty, the only thing that can be done is metal detectors. They can't stop these kids from bringing weapons into schools without metal detectors," said another mom, who said her son will be attending Vero Beach High School next year. "That's honestly what concerns me."
Not all parents wanted metal detectors. Some told WPTV they are strongly against it.
"It's controversial," said one parent, "You don’t want to make your school a prison.”
"I think it’s overboard, honestly," said Rodolico. "We left Palm Beach County because of that."
Rodolico told WPTV she believes the school district is doing all that can be done to keep schools safe, yet all other parents told us metal detectors or not, there needs to be a change.
Thornton said she believes the problem is bullying.
"They need to do something about these bullies" she said.
Other parents agreed with that, too.
The parent of a rising 10th grader told WPTV bullying is the exact reason she doesn't want to share her name.
"Kids are nasty nowadays. It's heartbreaking," she said.
WPTV reached out to the districts in our viewing area to find out how many threats have been made against schools this year, and how many arrests have been made as a result.
WPTV is still waiting for responses from school districts in Palm Beach, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties.
Martin County told WPTV the following:
The Martin County School Resource Unit has investigated approximately 32 cases requiring a threat assessment. Not all of these cases specifically involved a threat against a school. Some cases involved a threat of violence against another person, a threat to bring a gun on campus, or a threat to harm the campus/student body.
Of the 32 cases, 1 arrest was made for drug possession, 1 civil citation for carrying a concealed weapon, 2 civil citations for disruption of a school function, and four Baker Acts.