'Scathing’ report: School guards got shoddy training
Report on security firm hired by Palm Beach County School District

A company that trained armed guards for Palm Beach County schools used unqualified instructors, passed students who failed shooting tests and committed several other violations, according to a report by the county sheriff’s office.

Invictus Security Services of Boynton Beach charged $3,000 per person to the Palm Beach County School District to train nearly 30 guards for charter schools, under state requirements adopted after the Parkland school shooting.

The sheriff’s office review found the training so deficient that it would not certify the guards as qualified, requiring that they be retrained. The head of the state commission investigating the Parkland shooting called the report “scathing.”

Here are the highlights:

  • Some instructors lacked state-required qualifications.
  • Program director and lead instructor Gregory Solowsky was not a state-certified instructor. He “resigned/retired in lieu of separation for violating agency/training center policy from the Lauderhill Police Department,” according to the report.
  • Students passed firearms qualification with an 80% score, rather than the required 85%.
  • The company lacked documentation to show instructors’ qualifications.
  • The company could not document student attendance.

“I consider this report scathing,” said Bob Gualtieri, chairman of the state commission investigating the Parkland shooting, which had been highly critical of Palm Beach County for using a private firm for training rather than the sheriff’s office. “It demonstrates incompetence, complete contravention of the statute. It’s appalling.”

“What’s to me most appalling is that the school district paid $3,000 per person for this inadequate, inferior training that was, it looks like, just done to check a box and get people through,” said Gualtieri, who is sheriff of Pinellas County and chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. “If the school district put these unqualified people into schools to protect kids, people who couldn’t even qualify on the firearms under the standards that are established, that could be very dangerous.”

Invictus officials did not respond to calls or emails.

The 144-hour course required by the state guardian program concentrated on firearms training, with additional instruction in tactics, active-shooting scenarios and legal issues. It also involved psychological testing. The company had trained 15 guards for the district and was in the process of training 12 more.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, another member of the Stoneman Douglas commission, blasted the school board for hiring the firm.

“It’s total, absolute incompetence,” he said. “And they have wasted literally tens of thousands of the taxpayers’ dollars. And they still didn’t appropriately comply with the law. I am outraged at their incompetence and lack of care and concern.”

Despite the refusal of the sheriff’s office to certify the guards, Palm Beach County’s charter schools are not going unprotected. The school district has paid for sheriff’s deputies at the charter schools for the first 60 days of school so the schools will be covered as the guardians get retrained. This was a contingency plan in case there was a problem with the guardians.

“They missed the point that we had all our schools covered on the first day of school,” School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri Jr. said. “They said they understood how we could have misinterpreted the statute. We thought what we were doing was authorized by statute.”

Edward Tierney, school district chief of staff, said he’s not sure how much it will cost because he’s not sure how much more training the sheriff decided the guardians need. He said he asked and didn’t get a clear answer on Wednesday.

Staff writer Megan O’Matz contributed to this story.

David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4535.