School staff toting guns. It's an idea that makes several Tampa Bay area district leaders uncomfortable. Many plan to opt-out, even if the Governor Rick Scott gives the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Plan the go ahead.
Jacqueline Byrd, Polk County's Superintendent made her position clear in a video posted to Facebook. “I want to be very clear on where I stand: this is absolutely not the answer," she explained to the district's social media followers.
Pinellas County School Board Member Rene Flowers has a similar opinion, “Actually being able to pull that trigger and take a life is a huge responsibility. It’s something that will live with you for a long time. I don’t want to do that to our staff. They aren't officers, deputies or members of the military. They do not train for this and it isn't their expertise,” she explained.
The Pinellas County School Board hasn't officially taken a stance on the issue of allowing school staff to carry guns, but Flowers says many board members find the idea appalling. “These school staff members are hired to be there for our students, to be nurturing and encouraging. They are not hired to charge head-on into someone who has an automatic weapon and desires to do harm.”
State lawmakers agreed on a Guardian program, which would allow allowing school staff including coaches, librarians, cafeteria workers, councilors and some teachers to undergo 144 hours of training plus 12 hours of diversity training in order to be able to carry a gun on campus.
Susan Amaral, who has a middle and high schooler, also doesn't find the plan feasible. “I don’t see teachers being able to handle that kind of thing,” she explained.
The 10 largest school districts in Florida have doubts too. All of those districts or superintendents saying they plan to opt out.
Only Sarasota and Brevard County’s superintendents say they could be open to the option, alongside other safety enhancements.
Peter Giorlando says it’s a shame so many districts plan to opt out. “With the crazy people out here, you must protect these kids. If there are no guns on the school property then the only one with the gun is the person who is going to murder all the people. It doesn’t make sense,” the St Pete dad elaborated.
If the governor signs off, it’ll be up to each district to decide if they want to open their schools up to guardian training.
Here's how our Tampa Bay Districts are weighing in on the issue:
Citrus County - No decision has been made yet
Hernando County - No decision has been made yet
Manatee County - The Superintendent strongly disagrees with arming school staff
Pasco County - They have not taken an official vote, but the majority of school board members oppose the idea
Pinellas County - They also have not taken an official vote, but the majority of school board members oppose arming staff members.
Hillsborough County - School Board members passed a formal resolution opposing the idea of staff members packing heat.
Polk County - The superintendent opposes arming staff members and posted her comments publicly on Facebook
Sarasota County - The superintendent said, "We continue to improve our school safety and security practices and are considering additional SROs and a number of other options to provide an armed presence at all of our schools, among other strategies."