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Florida Inches Closer To Armed Teachers; Duval County Public Schools Won’t Participate

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign a proposal would allow public and charter schools to carry guns in the classroom, although many school districts are unlikely to arm instructors.

The Legislature this week passed bill (HB 7093) that expands the guardian program, which was created last year after the Parkland shooting and allowed armed “safety assistants” to patrol school grounds. The measure would let teachers - who volunteer - take part in the program with the approval of local school boards.

Related: Judge Will Decide Whether To Dismiss ‘Safety Assistants’ Lawsuit Against Duval Schools

The Duval School Board adopted the guardian program, but voted last year to oppose arming school staff. Spokeswoman Laureen Ricks, in an email to WJCT News, said that remains the board’s position.   

“Our current school safety assistant plan enables the district a strong security presence without arming teachers and other school staff whose primary job responsibilities relate to education and school management, she said.

Under the legislation, local school boards that authorize the program would set their own policies about how and where teachers’ guns are stored. Teachers who volunteer are required to undergo the same training as the current guardians.

Critics of the controversial bill argue it could increase the risk of accidental shootings and create a hostile atmosphere on school campuses. Proponents like Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, contend not arming teachers puts students at risk.   

“There are three kinds of people. There are sheep and those are our children; there are sheep dogs, people that will protect them, if we allow it - And there are wolves,” he said.  “There are wolves like there were in the synagogue shooting last weekend and there will always be wolves out there.” 

Gregory was referring to a shooting at a California synagogue on Saturday, April 27, that left one woman dead and three others wounded, including the rabbi.  

Duval is among a growing number of districts; which includes Hillsborough, Tampa, and Lake Counties, that have said they won’t be arming teachers.

Related: Florida Moves To Allow Schools To Arm Teachers. A Number of Districts Have Already Said They Won’t

The school-safety bill narrowly passed with a vote of 65-4, mostly along party lines.

Now it is on the governor's desk, ahead of the end of the legislative session which is expected to wrap up Saturday.  

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319,  aadan@wjct.org  or on Twitter at  @abukaradan17

Photo used under Creative Commons license.

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