JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida school safety leaders are calling on school districts throughout the state to expand programs that allow for teachers and other school staff to carry firearms on school grounds.
Since the guardian program was first introduced following the Parkland shooting, roughly two-thirds of school districts, including Duval schools, have implemented it in some form or fashion.
Pinellas County Sheriff and head of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission Bob Gualtieri said in a commission meeting this week, early fears raised about the guardian program of teachers mishandling firearms or even using them against students, simply never came to fruition.
He encouraged districts that haven’t gotten on board to rethink their stance.
“Reconsider it. Reevaluate and think about it. You gotta stop it as soon as it starts,” said Gualtieri.
Duval County has established a guardian program.
As of June 1st, we discovered a total of 29 DCPS employees are participating in the program.
The district also has 89 internal school safety officers, 43 JSO resource officers and ten contracted security guards.
That’s one officer for all 152 traditional public schools in the district.
We reached out to DCPS and asked if the district has any intention of expanding the current number of guardians.
We were told simply “the district remains in compliance” with its requirement to have at least one safe-school officer on every campus.
Unlike Gualtieri, some like State Representative Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) don’t believe the answer is arming more teachers.
“I’m really hesitant to involve, to support the expansion of folks to have more guns in schools when we have a mass exodus of teachers leaving our schools,” said Nixon.
Along with low pay and classroom culture wars, Nixon believes the guardian program has contributed to difficulty recruiting teachers in the state.
“They have expressed fears and concerns with folks who are not as qualified to carry around students,” said Nixon.
But Gualtieri notes guardians must undergo more firearm training than law enforcement and he claims in its first four years, the program has gone off without a hitch.
“The proof is in the pudding. Show us where the problem is. Show us where the guardians have done something wrong,” said Gualtieri.
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