(UPI) — Some school boards in Florida are barring teachers from carrying guns on school grounds — ensuring that law enforcement officers are the only ones allowed to be armed on campuses.
Florida’s Leon County School Board and Superintendent Rocky Hanna signed the resolution against arming teachers during a session Tuesday night.
The Tallahassee-area board made its decision amid national debate on gun control and school safety, which was spurred by the deaths of 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill this month that opens the door for county sheriffs and school boards to allow certain school employees to carry firearms.
“The Leon County School Board will not be arming teachers,” board chair Alva Striplin said Tuesday night. “Our job is to educate children. And to keep them safe. And to follow the law. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
The resolution was met with applause from those in attendance. Board member Roseanne Woods said officials didn’t want “anyone to make a mistake” while carrying a gun in a classroom.
“The opportunity for disaster greatly outweighs the possible prevention of something bad happening on our campus,” Hanna said. “What happens if there was a fight or if the gun got into someone else’s hands? What happens if the guardian shoots the wrong person or if the guardian is shot?”
Others who spoke at the meeting said they would rather have the district devote resources toward more staffing, improved health and counseling services and anti-bullying programs to address the issue of school violence.
Board member Dee Dee Rasmussen, who voted for the resolution, encouraged empathy for people who support policies to arm teachers.
“We have to learn to listen to them, and maybe they will listen to us, and we can work together to keep our children safe,” Rasmussen said. “I don’t think for one second that there is any citizen in this county that wants for our children to be shot in school, but they may have a different opinion about how to approach that.”
The School Board of Palm Beach County has also agreed to only arm law enforcement officers on school campuses.
“This School Board and School District will not participate in the “school guardian” program that was signed into law as discretionary for school districts,” Chuck Shaw, chairman of the Palm Beach County school board said.
Shaw added in a statement that Palm Beach County would instead hire more than 100 sworn law enforcement officers to join the school police department.
In Gainesville, Florida, the Alachua County School Board voted unanimously last week to reaffirm its longstanding policy barring firearms on its properties.
“People have been asking if we are going to allow school personnel to carry firearms and everybody wants to know what we are going to do, so we voted to reaffirm our longstanding policy,” Eileen Roy, a member of the Board said.
However, other Florida school boards are going along with Scott’s plan to train and arm teachers on campuses.
In Putnam County, volunteer school personnel will receive 150 hours of training from certified police instructors as part of a new program called STAR — for Sheriff’s Trained Armed Response.
“We know that if an assailant enters a school, we have only a very few minutes to stop the threat. Highly qualified and well-trained Special Deputies can successfully augment our Youth Resource Deputies and will save lives should the unthinkable happen,” Putnam County Sheriff H. D. DeLoach said.
President Donald Trump has said he favors arming teachers or school officials.
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