While a new law allows Florida schools to arm their teachers, the Leon County School Board has unanimously approved a resolution stating they won’t be doing that in their school district.
“I would like to tell you all that Leon County School Board will not be arming teachers. Period,” School Board Chair Alva Striplin said, during Tuesday's meeting.
To the applause of many, Striplin told a crowded room: Leon County would not be allowing teachers or other personnel to carry guns on school grounds—with the exception of law enforcement.
The decision is included in a resolution approved by the full board Tuesday night.
“Be it resolved that the School Board declares that Leon County Schools will only allow State of Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training certified law enforcement officers to be armed in our schools,” read Striplin. “Be it resolved that the School Board of Leon County, Florida declares its intent to continue its longstanding School Resource Deputy Program, which places certified law enforcement officers in the public schools in Leon County to enhance students’ educational opportunities by promoting a safe and secure learning environment.”
The resolution is a response to a new gun safety law Governor Rick Scott approved earlier this month that contains the “arming teachers” language as part of a voluntary “guardian program.” It’s up to the school superintendent as well as the local sheriff’s office to decide whether to join the program.
The Leon resolution came from School Board Member Rosanne Wood.
“This is not a political issue,” she said. “This is a safety issue. And, we don’t want anyone to make a mistake in the school. And, it’s happened already. In California and Georgia, teachers were armed, and guns went off. And, we can’t have that. This is not what teachers or principals or anybody else is trained for.”
Carina Richardson says the local resolution is great news for students. She’s a Rickards High school student, who sits on the school board as the student school board member.
“From a student’s side, it’s such a sigh of relief to know that teachers won’t be armed here in in Leon County,” Richardson stated. “It’s such a major issue, and honestly, seems so absurd when they were actually considering it. But, just to know that, here in Leon County, we will continue to have classrooms that will foster a feeling of safety and trust between the student and the teacher, again, will be such a relief. It’s so important for students to feel comfortable.”
Only four people from the public spoke in favor of the resolution. Sean Cooley was one of them.
“I worked in a Title I school, and one day, I could be teaching in a classroom one-on-one with a student trying to help him to read, and the next day, having to separate a fight,” he said. “I can’t imagine having a gun on my person with two fifth graders at two sides of me.”
No one spoke against the proposal, but School Board member Dee Dee Rasmussen says going forward, it’s still important to hear from all sides.
“I am in concert with almost everyone in the room, but we have to be careful not to alienate other people that we need at the table that are part of the community, that are part of our taxpayer base that can help us find a way…I am so proud of our students and their civic engagement,” she said. “But, I would be proud if we had students who were on a different side of the issue too because getting involved, this is what democracy looks like.”
The resolution also asks the Florida Legislature to increase funding for a mandate included in the new law that states all schools should have at least one school resource officer. Leon County School board members as well as School Superintendent Rocky Hanna called it an unfunded mandate, since there’s not much funding for that. Hanna says he’s also working with Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil to move funds around to make that happen.
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