Members of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate have initiated the process to change school/education policy on weapons in or around elementary, middle and high schools.
In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut there has been talk of arming principals and/or teachers with guns in elementary, middle and high schools. In follow-up to ‘Arming teachers with guns is that the answer’, the talk in Florida has turned into action with the submission of two bills, HB 1097-School Safety, and SB 1418-School Safety.
HB 1097 was sponsored by W. Gregory Steube (R) and co-sponsored by Dennis Baxley (R), and co-sponsored by Neil Combee (R), Manny Diaz, Jr. (R), Gayle B. Harrell (R), and Jake Raburn (R). SB 1418 was sponsored by Alan Hayes (R).
With minor differences, the bills provide an exception to the prohibition on possession of firearms or other specific devices on school property or other specified areas. They also authorize a district school board to designate one or more school safety officers for each school campus, and authorizes a school principal and district school superintendent to designate certain school personnel to carry a concealed weapon or firearm on school property while performing school duties under certain circumstances.
Paulette Atkinson-Grant, a teacher in Homestead has said, “No, I didn’t become a teacher or a concealed weapons carrier to bring my gun into the classroom as a means to protect myself or my students. I don’t want that responsibility. I need to worry about academics not guerrilla warfare while I’m on the clock. I know that over the years there has been an increase in gun violence in our schools, but arming us teachers is not going to solve that. Hire well-trained armed security to handle that.”
Representative W. Gregory Steube indicated one or more teachers should be allowed to carry guns on school property. Those teachers would have to obtain a concealed weapons permit and undergo extensive firearms training. Steube has said, “It would be a good deterrent. The bad guys aren’t going to know how many or who’s carrying in a school. They don’t know if nobody is designated or if 10 people are designated.”
Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Board Association has said, “We have a resolution opposing any teacher or administrator carrying a gun on campus. We will not support that in any capacity. Teachers are there to be role models for our students. Role models don’t need to be carrying guns on campus.”
Should the bill become law, there are some questions associated with the potential implementation of such a policy change:
• What criteria would be used to select the teacher or school staff who is allowed to carry the concealed weapon?
• Who provides the weapons training, and who pays for that training?
• What types of firearms are allowed to be carried?
• What are the insurance and liability implications for lost or stolen firearms of teachers or staff?
• What are the state or district school policies and procedures governing carrying and use of firearms by teachers or school staff?
Bernard Jones, a parent of a high school student in the Fort Lauderdale area offered, “Guns should not be a part of the school experience. The emphasis should be on resolving matters using means other than guns. This is a knee-jerk approach that seems only to increase the risk of gun incidents in schools as opposed to decreasing that risk. Like opening Pandora’s box, this could turn schools into the wild, wild west; has any thought been given to managing the potential risk and the inevitable liability problems?”
Kenneth S. Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services has said, “There is a huge difference between having trained, qualified and commissioned law enforcement officers who are full-time career public safety professionals that are armed and assigned the duty of protecting students and staff versus having teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other non-public safety professionals packing a gun in a school with hundreds of children.”
What is your opinion on school principals, teachers or staff carrying concealed guns as part of their job description?
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