Florida Legislature Passes Bill to Arm Teachers, Awaits Governor's Signature

May 2, 2019

By

Matthew Hoy

The Florida legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow school districts to arm teachers as part of the state's school guardian program. GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill.

Florida passed a similar law last year in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that allowed teachers to carry guns on campus, but only if they also had another role, such as a sports coach. This new law would extend it to any qualified teacher.

"It allows the good guys to stop the bad. The bad guys will never know when the good guys are there to shoot back," said Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan of Lake City, a retired law enforcement officer. "The guardian is the last line of defense. He or she will be there when a police officer is not."

Teachers who want to carry guns in districts that choose to join the program would have to undergo police-style training, psychiatric evaluation and drug screening.

The idea to arm teachers was among those suggestions made by the Stoneman Douglas commission in the wake of the shooting that left 17 dead after school resource officers and Broward County Sheriff's Deputies failed to confront the shooter.

Florida Democrats Fear Teachers May Shoot Black Students

Among the arguments made by those opposed to the law was that the Florida teaching corps is a haven for anti-black racism.

The outcome of the vote in the Florida State House this week was a foregone conclusion: A proposal to allow teachers to carry firearms in school would easily win approval.

But that did not mean the debate would not be long and emotional, as Democrats implored Republicans in the majority to consider the possible risks — one of them being teachers with guns who might represent yet another source of risk for black and Latino students.

The tension peaked when Representative Shevrin D. Jones, a Democrat who is African-American, tried unsuccessfully to pass a pair of amendments on the House floor on Tuesday aimed at protecting children from the possibility that an armed teacher in a chaotic situation could assume that a black student was a threat.

One amendment would have required any teacher who volunteers for the so-called school guardian program to be trained in implicit bias, or stereotypes that could unconsciously affect spur-of-the-moment decisions. The other would have prohibited a teacher who shoots a student by mistake in a situation with an active shooter on campus from claiming self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

We are talking about black boys and girls who are getting murdered by police officers!” Mr. Jones, who represents the city of West Park, near Fort Lauderdale, shouted into the microphone. “There are bad police officers and there are bad teachers.”

It's interesting how easily some Democrats slander one of their largest voting bases, but since many teachers agree with them on the ends, they'll likely be OK with the means. Officials at more populous districts in the state have already vowed to not participate in the program, instead relying on their school resource officers and police to show more bravery than those in Broward County did.

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