On Tuesday, some Florida teachers were permitted to carry firearms in their classrooms, following a law that was passed by the Florida Legislature in May.
SB 7030, which was passed in response to the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida stated that it removed “the prohibition against full-time classroom teachers participating in the guardian program.”
The Guardian Program, which is part of the Office of Safe Schools for the state of Florida, states:
The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was established in 2018 through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In its initial report, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission found that having Guardians in schools is the best way to ensure highly trained personnel are in place to respond immediately in the event of a school shooting.
Guardians are armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises. They are either school employees who volunteer to serve in addition to official job duties or personnel hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian. Guardians must pass psychological and drug screenings, and successfully complete a minimum of 144 hours of training.
The 2019 Legislature expanded the Guardian program to include Class D and G licensed security guards as well as certain school district or charter school employees who volunteer to participate in the program. State funds are granted to participating Sheriff’s Offices to cover the screening and training costs for each Guardian. Also, Guardians receive a one-time stipend of $500 for serving in the program.
For schools in need of Guardians, but located in districts that do not have a Guardian program, those schools may arrange for training with another sheriff’s office that has established a Guardian program.
39 counties in Florida participate in the Guardian Program. Miami-Dade and Orlando counties have rejected the idea.
CBS News interviewed Bill Husfelt, the superintendent for Bay County Schools, who stated, “You know, until you’re standing in front of someone with a gun pointed at you, you don’t realize how helpless you really are. Everybody wants to know ‘How do we prevent it? How can we stop it?’ We don’t look at it as we want more guns, we look at it as we want more protection.”
Husfelt recalled an incident in 2010 in which an armed man walked into a school board meeting and fired at Husfelt, among others, before committing suicide. Husfelt commented, “You know experiencing that myself put a different spin on it and a different understanding about what goes on in those situations. You know, until you’re standing in front of someone with a gun pointed at you you don’t realize how helpless you really are.”
The 15-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s 446-page report stated that the state’s law should be changed so teachers who passed an intense training program and background check could carry firearms on campus. The report stated, “Safety and security accountability is lacking in schools, and that accountability is paramount for effective change if we expect a different result in the future than what occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”