Broward schools don’t plan to arm teachers

The school board in Broward County, Florida — where a gunman killed 17 students and staff members at one of its high schools — said Tuesday it will not participate in a program that allows certain school employees to be armed.

Rather, the board said in a press release, funding allocated for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program should be redirected to hire more school resource officers.

Board members, who voted on the matter, have authorized Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie to communicate their intent regarding the controversial provision of Senate Bill 7026, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott last month.

Known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, the law tightens gun control in several ways but also allows some teachers to be armed.

The law is the first gun control legislation enacted in the state after the Parkland school massacre on Feb. 14. Among the provisions are more funding for armed school resource officers and mental health services.

The allowance for certain employees to carry guns brought perhaps the most debate. Before final passage, the state Senate limited who could take part.

Those who “exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers” wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the program. Qualfied teachers who perform additional duties, such as coaching football or heading the drama club, would be allowed to participate, along with administrators and cafeteria workers.

The guardian program is a local option, if the school district and sheriff’s department agree. It was named after the coach who shielded students from bullets with his own body and died in the massacre.

John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, said the governor has indicated he would work with the Legislature to redirect any unused funds from the guardian program to allow schools to hire additional school safety officers.

These parents opposed arming teachers

After the bill passed, parents, civil rights groups and some Democratic lawmakers warned that the guardian program could have deadly unintended consequences for students of color.

Democrats in the Republican-controlled House and Senate fought unsuccessfully to remove the provision from the legislation. They argued that minority students — who are often subject to disproportionate levels of punishment compared to their white counterparts and are more likely to be mistaken for perpetrators — could become targets.

Some Republicans took issue with that argument.

“What bill are we talking about here? Is this a different bill from the one I thought we were talking about? Because I thought we were talking about school safety?” said Rep. Elizabeth Porter, a Republican from Lake City. Porter said teachers would not target minorities.

While members of both parties want schools to be “safe spaces,” they disagreed on whether introducing more guns to school premises was the solution. Some teachers, parents and students from Parkland and other Florida schools have been among the most vocal opponents of the plan.

Runcie, the Broward superintendent, said shortly after the shooting that arming teachers is not the solution.

“We don’t need to put guns in the hands of teachers. You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket,” he said, making a reference to more school funding and support.