Community Problem Solver group Bulldog Patrol initiated the partnership between FPC and FCSO.
There will soon be dogs — other than student Bulldogs — on campus at Flagler Palm Coast High School.
As part of a Community Problem Solvers group called Bulldog Patrol, students have coordinated with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to have K-9 units sniff around inside and outside of the school periodically in an effort to increase school safety.
When the idea first came to a group of six FPC students who formed the Bulldog Patrol, they surveyed about 380 students and community members affiliated with the school and found that school safety was a concern.
Once FPC senior and project member Katia Martynuk started digging into school shooting statistics, she said the gravity of preventing one here hit home.
The Bulldog Patrol formed a security council that meets once a month to discuss concerns and plan regarding the student’s wellbeing on campus. While security council participants vary each month, they’ve included Sheriff Rick Staly, Superintendent James Tager, Executive Director of Leadership Development Dr. Earl Johnson, FPC’s Fire Leadership Academy, representatives from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on-campus program at FPC, teachers, parents and students.
Staly said the department will provide the K-9 units (of which the department has five K-9 teams) periodically as part of regular, on-duty K-9 training.
FCSO K-9 Sgt. John Welker, a parent of five children who are in Flagler Schools, said he’s in favor of collaborations with the Sheriff’s Office to keep students safe at school.
“Where the dogs come into play is their nose. Their ability to seek out odors, specific odors that we train them for, is at such a greater level than those of the human capacity,” he said. “And the presence of a K-9 truck on campus is just a huge deterrent.”
The K-9 units patroling will be in addition to the normal two school resource deputies stationed at FPC, which were assigned when Senate Bill 7026, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, was put into place following the school shooting in Parkland in February 2018.
“I think it is great that students are participating in making their school safe,” Staly said in an email. “One of the perspectives that has been missing from most initiatives is understanding and input from the students that are affected. The students probably know the vulnerabilities of the campus better than most adults.”
In addition to K-9s, Bulldog Patrol made survival kits, filled with first aid items like gauze and tampons to soak up bullet wounds, that were given to each teacher at FPC to use in case of an emergency. The group made 210 kits with $800 of the $1,000 donation that Flagler School District Safety Director Winnie Oden and her sister, Eileen Grogan, made to the group.
“I have been passionate and dedicated to school safety my whole professional career,” Oden said. “I can’t think of anything better to give to.”
It’s been a pleasure working with the Bulldog Patrol students, she said, as they share her same passion for school safety.
During a staff meeting over winter break, teachers participated in first-aid training, hosted by the FCSO, to learn how to use the survival kits.
Bulldog Patrol members are getting ready for a pitch competition held by United Way Flagler- Volusia Counties to earn a grant that they’d use for more survival kits and other preventive safety measures.
“At first, I thought, ‘It can’t happen here. It’s just FPC; it’s not going to happen here.’ But then I realized it could happen here,” FPC freshman and group member Nick Blumengarten said, “and that this project should be in place so that it doesn’t happen here and that we know what to do in case something should happen.”
FPC sophomore and group member Sydni Leon said the school’s mantra for the year, “If not you, then who,” is helping to inspire people to say something to an adult if they see something suspicious.
“It’s really pretty impactful for students to create something to help our school become a little safer,” Leon said.
FPC students Will Patin, Gabby Jackson and Abbigail Carver round out the Bulldog Patrol. The group is now working to create an informative video with FPC-TV, as well as continued partnerships with the school’s ERAU program’s students and drones for surveying from the sky.
The Bulldog Patrol hopes to expand some of the safety tactics to other schools in the district in the future, if all goes well at FPC.
“The more we can spread this to other schools is a huge preventative measure — just spurring that talk of what might happen, just getting people to watch others and be more aware of their surroundings,” Martynuk said. “And it’s even about our school culture. If we can take that element of ‘Oh it could never happen here,’ if we can eliminate that feeling, it would be a lot easier to go about this.”