Pinellas teachers sign up for free concealed weapons course offered by local security firm
10:01 PM, Feb 5, 2013
7:31 AM, Feb 6, 2013
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School shook the nation, and fueled conversations on armed teachers. Now, some local educators are preparing to take lessons on concealed weapons.
It is against Florida law to bring a gun to school, and that includes the parking lot, even locked in a trunk. But, an offer by a local firm to teach a free class on guns is getting a lot of attention, even shocking the man who offered the service.
Lenny Bogdanos protects people. It's been his job, his passion, for decades. He owns International Executive Protection, a private security firm. When he saw the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary and saw fear, even in his own community thousands of miles away, he wanted to help.
"I didn't realize it would get this much attention. I did not realize I would get hundreds of calls and e-mails," said Bogdanos.
All reacting to an offer he gave to teachers in his neighborhood who spread the word quickly online. Bogdanos said he would waive a $75 fee for any teacher interested in learning about concealed weapons, with one purpose in mind.
"Education is powerful, and that is what I am trying to do is educate people," said Bogdanos.
Bogdanos offer also got the attention of parents. Some think it is a good idea that teachers seek training, but are also adamant they don't want them armed in the classroom.
"If it gets in the wrong hands, or someone else gets a hold of it, then it's going to be another issue," said Maureen Harvey, a mother of five.
Dad Paul Cooley said, "I don't think it should be allowed in school by teachers or staff members. I think there are law enforcement professionals who should have that responsibility."
And right now, law enforcement are the only ones allowed to carry firearms into a school. School board member Peggy O'Shea said the law is very clear on that. She does not anticipate change but does say this strong reaction by teachers to Bogdanos' offer could open up new dialogue in the future.
"If (teachers) feel at any time there is something we should do to make their situation more secure we are open to hearing it and acting on it," said O'Shea.
Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Pinellas reviewed all their security plans to help students, parents and teachers feel more secure. Bogdanos said now he's doing his part.
"There are hundreds of e-mails in support of it. People who can't make the class on February 16 are asking us to have another class, and that might be in the works as well," said Bogdanos.
Because of the overwhelming reaction, Bogdanos said right now he can only offer this to Pinellas County teachers. At this point, he doesn't even have a venue to meet the demand for the class scheduled on February 16.