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Board Of Ed Member Michael Olenick Says He Opposes Letting Teachers Carry Guns

Two bald men in dark suits pose side-by-side in a wood paneled office
Governor's Press Office

A member of Florida’s public school oversight board is taking a stand against arming teachers. In Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting Michael Olenick called the move “wrong”. 

Florida’s  “Guardian” program is voluntary for districts. It was created in the wake of last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and initially, only allowed school personnel other than classroom teachers to carry guns as a sort of last line of defense. State lawmakers expanded the program recently to include all teachers, something State Board of Education member Michael Olenick, a former teacher and prosecutor, strongly disagrees with. 

"What’s foreign to me is putting guns in the hands of someone who is trained to teach, not a police officer. And there’s a difference. I get the 150 hours [of training], I get the criteria. It’s just wrong," he said, going on to cite comments from Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, who was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

“One of his quotes was, ‘having untrailed personnel is more likely to create a tragic scenario where innocent people could get injured or killed. Having more guns in an active shooter situation can make it more difficult for police officers to ID the shooter'.”  

Those concerns are similar to ones expressed by critics of the meausre, mostly Democrats, when it was still under debate in the legislature.

The Department of Education says 30 school districts have training agreements in place for the Guardian program and it’s estimating 43 of the state’s 67 counties will eventually participate.  The new law calls for teachers and others designated as guardians to receive mental health evaluations, firearms and active shooter training.

“I commend districts that have rejected this," he said. "In my mind, it’s wrong. It’s a debate we will have forever, but in my heart of hearts, I think it was the wrong decision.”   

Olenick was appointed to the state board of education by former Governor and Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott. His opposition is contrary to that of his fellow board members, and even Republicans. Most Republican lawmakers voted for the move to expand the Guardian Program.