On October 4, 2018, Ronald Ralph, a Central High School paraprofessional was arrested for possessing a firearm on school property. Ralph’s arrest record cites a violation of Florida Statute 790.115, which states in part that one exception is “In a vehicle pursuant to s. 790.25(5); except that school districts may adopt written and published policies that waive the exception in this subparagraph for purposes of student and campus parking privileges.”
The Hernando County School Board discussed the matter at an Informal Meeting held on October 9, 2018. Chairman Mark Johnson brought the matter to the board, stating that after a conversation with the School Board’s attorney Dennis Alfonso, the board’s current policies are found to be “at odds with each other,” and the board agreed that the matter should be brought to a Workshop so that the policies can be revised to eliminate confusing language. A county record search listed Ralph’s case as “Prosecutor: Dropped / Abandoned” on October 25, 2018.
Alfonso described the inconsistencies in the school board policies as “complicated and subtle.” Current statutes evolved over several years from a Federal statute that required school properties to be gun-free zones, which proved to be difficult to maintain, and ultimately left the policy-making up to the school boards.
“We have a policy for students with guns… in parking lots, and we have a different policy for employees. Then we have a third concept of policies … that deal with general members of the public.” Alfonso also said the board has limited authority with regard to policies that can apply to students and school faculty and employees, but they cannot set policies for the public. The board will investigate appropriate signage to alert parents and campus visitors to policies. According to the minutes of the meeting, the district will also reach out to the Florida School Board Association and NEOLA, an advisory organization to the district. The board gave consensus to workshop the item as well.