Published: Mon, May 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Florida passes law allowing teachers to carry guns in classrooms

Florida passes law allowing teachers to carry guns in classrooms

Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law Wednesday a measure that will allow teachers to carry a firearm in school.

Before signing the legislation in South Florida, DeSantis made stops at private schools in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg to tout the benefits of the scholarship program. It was one of the more contentious bills of a legislative session that ended Saturday. "The Marjory Stoneman Douglas bill, people had disagreements on, but ultimately". As of January 2019, 688 guardians had been assigned to public schools in the 25 participating districts. Republicans emphasized that the program is voluntary, and that law enforcement in some rural districts could be 15 minutes or more away from a school if a shooter attacks. Teachers who volunteer to carry a gun must undergo a psychological evaluation, background check and complete 144 hours of training to receive certification.

DeSantis said educating students at a place like Potter's with the scholarship is less expensive than at traditional public schools.

Under the previous law, the Guardian Program had a provision that explicitly forbade those who "exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers" from being eligible to volunteer for the program.

The program allows school districts to partner with law enforcement to train and arm some school personnel, but did not include teachers until now. That was created to catch substitute teachers who perform poorly or behave inappropriately with students from being able to just move to a nearby charter or private school after they were fired by the district.

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The Broward County school district, where the Parkland shooting took place, is now enrolled in the program, but according to Fox News, the district has both rejected and protested the expansion of the program which allows teachers to be armed. "I need to believe that state leaders want Florida's students to succeed but, given the evidence, I'd say they're setting our students and neighborhood public schools up for failure in the near future". Duval County uses a mixture of school board police and school safety assistants and is not considering using the Guardian Program.

The bill contains dozens of other school safety measures including mental health screenings for troubled students and increased reportage of school safety and student discipline incidents.

Last week the state House and Senate passed the measure despite protests from Parkland students and parents and other gun control activists who argue it will put more children in danger and cause confusion during a crisis.

Story updated to reflect while almost all of the recommendations made by a commission formed after a mass shooting at a Parkland high school took immediate effect, changes to the "guardian" program that makes more teachers eligible to carry guns in schools will be implemented October 1.

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