- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law on Wednesday a bill that allows public school districts to arm teachers, The Hill reports. The idea had strong support from Republicans but was largely opposed by Democrats, and some school districts in areas including Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward Counties, have already opted to not arm teachers.
- The new bill requires that teachers who agree to be armed undergo at least 144 hours of law enforcement-approved training and a psychological exam, and it includes other school safety provisions that received bipartisan support: better reporting of school safety incidents, a standardized risk assessment process for potentially dangerous students and new school-based mental health guidelines.
- After the 2018 shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a program was implemented that allow school employees, not including teachers, to be armed on school grounds after they underwent weapons training. This new legislation is an extension of that concept, The Hill notes.
The number of school shootings in recent years has brought school security issues to the forefront of the minds of educators and policymakers. School leaders have explored and implemented several preventative measures, including increased security — installing buzzer systems, surveillance cameras and metal detectors, among other tools. The effectiveness of these measures remains debatable, however, and hardening schools too much can have chilling effects on students. By looking increasingly like prisons, the learning environment and school culture can shift drastically, the school-to-prison pipeline can be amplified and anxiety levels can rise among students and staff.
One of the more controversial discussions around ways to boost school safety has been surrounding arming teachers. This idea was touted by President Donald Trump last year, but in fact, was not a new idea. As of March 2018, 14 states already armed teachers, and another 16 states had legislative provisions that would allow for districts to decide whether can be armed, according to Vice News.
Arming teachers is still a hotly debated topic. Some people are concerned about the handling of guns at schools, as more than 60 incidents of mishandling of guns have occurred at schools since 2014. Others worry that implicit biases may endanger more students of color if teachers are authorized to carry weapons. These concerns aren't just limited to parents: Student groups have also expressed concerns about arming teachers. And aside from people's views, funding for these weapons could potentially be a roadblock for many school districts that don’t have the extra cash — and the suggestion to potentially use federal funding immediately drew widespread pushback.
While legislation allowing districts to choose to arm teachers is now on the books in Florida, district leaders still need to carefully consider their options before approving such measures. Issues such as training, legal responsibilities and who is suited to carry weapons in the classroom responsibly need to be weighed, and it could be beneficial to consult a legal team or local law enforcement to see if this is a viable option for your community.