Judge rules to allow armed school safety assistants in Jacksonville elementary schools

A judge ruled that Duval County is within its rights to hire armed guards to be stationed at Duval elementary schools.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A judge ruled in favor of allowing armed "school safety assistants" in Duval County elementary schools Monday.

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Lawyers for local parents and students sued Duval County Public Schools, saying the presence of the SSA's makes kids less safe.

In a hearing Monday, DCPS lawyers said the district has been "hemorrhaging money," fighting this in court since April.

Following the Parkland massacre in 2018, Florida lawmakers decided to allow school districts to have armed "guardians" in schools.

The program was named after coach Aaron Feis, who tried to stop the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Monday, his name came up in a hearing room at the Duval County Courthouse.

“That’s why this whole program was here,” said DCPS lawyer Jon Phillips.  “[Feis] rushed a shooter with no weapon, and he died for it.”

Lawyers representing Jacksonville elementary school students, parents and the League of Women Voters questioned the training of the SSAs, who are not law enforcement, saying the school board didn’t have the power to enact the policy putting them in place.

“We think when you put more guns in the hands of people other than trained law enforcement officers in a location, including schools, that does make children less safe,” said Sam Boyd of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Boyd’s team filed the lawsuit in November, and it has been amended several times since.

Monday, DCPS lawyers called their position "absurd and frivolous."

In the end, the judge ruled in favor of DCPS, giving Boyd and his team a week to amend their complaint further.

“We’re disappointed in the ruling,” Boyd said.  “We think this program was unlawful under current law.”

Boyd wouldn’t say if they plan to amend their complaint or appeal, saying he needs to speak with his clients.

DCPS doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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