Smaller Districts in Florida Want to Arm Teachers But Larger Ones Stand in Opposition

This month, the expansion of the Guardian Program took effect in schools across Florida schools. The program allows trained teachers to be armed and carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.

When the program was proposed, its main purpose was to let school resource officers be hired to protect classrooms.

Currently, only seven Florida school districts, all of them small and rural, are opting in the program to arm trained teachers: Bay, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Okeechobee, Putnam and Suwannee Counties.

Dylan Tedders, the assistant superintendent of Okeechobee County, said his school board voted to participate in the program.

“Our first priority is protecting students,” said Tedders.

But the bigger school districts aren’t high on arming teachers and, so far, are not behind the program.

Tamara Shamburger, the chairwoman of the Hillsborough County School Board, said she opposes the idea, insisting teachers have enough on their plate.

“Their focus has to be on educating their kids and not fighting off bad guys,” said Shamburger.

One of the leading opponents to arming teachers is state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens who called the program “counterproductive.”

Gun control groups in Florida have also lined up against expanding arming teachers.

Angie Gallo, the co-chair of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said arming teachers at schools would create an intense “adrenaline type of situation.”

“They are just not trained for it,” Gallo said about teachers. “They are not trained for it like law enforcement are.”

But some law enforcement officials disagree with Gallo.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd supports allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons on school grounds. Judd said arming some teachers could prevent a school tragedy like the one at Parkland from happening.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey told Florida Daily that groups opposing allowing teachers to be armed aren’t telling the whole story.

“It’s not like we’re going to give teachers a gun and have them go about their day. Those that choose to be armed will go through hours of rigorous training and will have to pass certain state requirements,” said Ivey.

Teachers and school personnel looking to carry will have to take more than 100 hours of training, pass a drug test and have a psychological exam.

“I think the negativity would be that we are passing out guns at the door,” said Tedders. “That is not what we are doing.”

Though most school districts in the Sunshine State will not allow more armed teachers, almost half–32 of 67–of Florida’s counties are looking at having more resources officers and arming certain school personnel instead of teachers.

 

Reach Ed Dean at ed.dean@floridadaily.com.

 

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