Schools to sue security firm after blistering report
Palm Beach County schools were criticized by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission for hiring Invictus, a security firm based in Boynton Beach. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel)

Palm Beach County schools will sue a Boynton Beach security firm to get money back for what the Sheriff’s Office has called the botched training of charter school security guards.

The School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to file a lawsuit against the company, Invictus Security, for what Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s investigators called the lead instructor’s improper certification, the firm’s inaccurate record-keeping and the passing of guard candidates who did not meet psychological and firearms qualifications.

Invictus President Patrick Miller, who described his company as “a veteran-owned small business,” blamed the school district for not making clear what the schools needed.

“The faults of the School Board should not fall on Invictus,” Miller told the board. “The School Board solicited Invictus without formal guidance on the scope of work.”

All public schools in Florida are required to have police officers or specially trained guards for the first time this year. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which has been meeting since the Parkland high school massacre last year, issued a report criticizing the training Invictus offered Palm Beach County’s guards earlier this month.

The district, responsible for security at its 183 traditional schools and 51 charters, said its lawyers had interpreted the law to mean private firms could train the guards, although the commission has since clarified to say county Sheriff’s Offices should do the training. The district is supplying officers from its school police force for its traditional schools.

Protecting the charters under the new law has proven complicated for several Florida school districts. The Broward County School Board took over a charter school earlier this month because it lacked a security guard and voted on Tuesday to monitor another charter that said it will have a permanent guard starting next week.

Palm Beach County schools paid $77,750 to Invictus for the training of 37 guards, Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke said. Some charter schools hired police officers and did not need the district’s guards, said Ed Tierney, the school district’s chief of staff.

The Sheriff’s Office took over the training of the guards Monday.

Burke said the Sheriff’s Office will get state grants to complete the security guards’ training. The school district set aside $4 million for charter school security this year and has spent more than $1 million so far to have Sheriff’s deputies and city police officers protect campuses until the security guards complete their training.