One of the most fiercely debated components of the sweeping school-safety law crafted in response to the deadly Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is back.
The commission tasked with investigating the Parkland massacre and making recommendations wants to expand the controversial “school guardian” program to allow armed teachers to bring their guns to their classrooms.
(More about that here.)
Teachers, parents and gun-control advocates raised heck over the proposal during the legislative session that ended in March. The state ended up with a watered-down version of the original bill, which now allows school personnel who are specially trained but are not full-time classroom instructors to be armed.
But Senate President Bill Galvano told reporters Thursday he’s open to the idea of allowing teachers to pack heat.
He said the commission made the recommendation after viewing video of the horrific attack at Stoneman Douglas, which left 14 students and three faculty members dead and 17 others injured.
Realistic conversation about “what can work and what seems like it could work and just makes us feel good.”
“They realized that just having responsive support and counter-defense was not enough,” the Bradenton Republican said of the commission, led by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
“I am very open to looking at that suggestion,” Galvano said of arming teachers.
He noted that he objected to Gov. Rick Scott’s request to allow schools to use left-over money that had been earmarked for the school guardian program for the traditional school-resource officers, who are generally sheriff’s deputies.
The Senate leader acknowledged that the teachers’ union and others would likely participate in talks about the proposal.
“It will have to be a matter of everybody understanding, including myself, and having that realistic conversation about what can work and what seems like ti could work and just makes us feel good,” Galvano said.
Family members whose loved ones were killed by confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, however, aren’t sold on the idea.
Broward County teacher Debbi Hixon’s husband, Chris, was the Parkland school’s athletics director and wrestling coach and was among the victims.
Teachers already have to prepare students for standardized tests and are responsible for their emotional and physical well-being, Hixon said.
“To add the burden of knowing that you’re responsible for taking out a shooter if they come into your room, even if a teacher thinks they are up to that task, I just think it is unfair to have that expectation for them,” she told us Thursday.