The Florida Legislature and Florida Governor Rick Scott gave the School Boards the authority to determine if school personnel, teachers included, could carry firearms on school property and in classrooms.
This determination came after much debate over the wording of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act was signed into law. The law provided that under the Office of Safe Schools within the Florida Department of Education, a school district can opt to permit a sheriff to establish a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.
According to the law, The Guardian Program is a volunteer approach to school safety. It is a volunteer effort on the part of the sheriff who participates, voluntary on the part of the school districts who participate, and it is on a volunteer basis that school personnel choose to participate in the program to become a school guardian.
A school district can opt to permit a sheriff to establish a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program in lieu of hiring more School Resource Officers or School Safety Officers.
“They are protecting children on the cheapest form of protection and flooding the schools with guns, with people who are not trained to handle weapons,” said Senator Perry Thurston, (D) Fort Lauderdale, who is a member of The Florida Black Caucus.
“Arming teachers has been a top priority of the NRA for years; and now they are using the deaths of 17 innocent people to accomplish their goals,” Thurston said.
Aurora Gonzalez, the Assistant Director of Communications for the Florida Education Association, shared an email of the FEA’s position concerning the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act:
“We are very disappointed that the governor conceded to the legislature on the issue of arming teachers. We owe it to our children to provide appropriate numbers of professionally trained law enforcement personnel, such as school resource officers, school safety officers and local police whose work assignment is to protect students and staff at the school,” the email said.
Many of the black state lawmakers feel that this law is not a good idea for minority students in public schools; however, Senator Darryl Rouson (D) St. Petersburg, who is a member of the Florida Black Caucus, expressed in the debate that the mental health provisions in the new law was a historical step in the right direction.
Even still, the stern position of The Florida Black Caucus remains to be that guns in school with minority children are a “dangerous mix.”
On March 1, an online article from The Tampa Bay Times titled “Black lawmakers: Arming teachers will increase Florida’s gun dangers,” expressed the fear of black lawmakers that African-American children may become targeted by teachers for use of excessive force as they are currently for school suspension; “…black legislators warned that arming teachers will only expose African-American students to more gun-related danger.”
However, according to the wording of the new law, African-American students could face more gun related danger from many other school personnel other than just their teachers who may be authorized to carry a firearm on school property and in classrooms, if that school district chooses to participate in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.
According to the law, under the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, any school personnel, from the art teacher to the janitor, can be authorized to carry a firearm on school property and in classrooms.
Whether hiring more School Resource Officers, School Safety Officers, or establishing a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, more guns will soon be present on Florida’s public school campuses.
“The Florida Legislative Black Caucus (FLBC) is a not-for-profit 501(c) 4 organization created for the sole purpose of advocacy in support of, or opposition to issues relative to ballot initiatives, education, healthcare, economic development and social welfare, as well as the promotion of the common good and general welfare of African Americans, and the various people of the State of Florida.”
The current 2016-2018 members of The Florida Black Caucus are as follows:
Senator Oscar Braynon II (D); Miami – Democratic Leader
Senator Audrey Gibson (D); Jacksonville
Senator Daphne Campbell (D); North Miami Beach
Senator Darryl Rouson (D) St. Petersburg
Senator Bobby Powell (D) West Palm Beach
Senator Randolph Bracy (D); Apopka
Senator Perry E. Thurston, Jr. (D); Fort Lauderdale
Representative Bobby DuBose (D); Ft. Lauderdale (Democratic Leader Pro Tem)
Representative Barbara Watson (D); Miami
Representative Shevrin D. “Shev” Jones (D); Ft Lauderdale
Representative Bruce Antone (D); Orlando
Representative Randolph Bracy (D); Ocoee
Representative Larry Lee Jr. (D); Port St. Lucie
Representative Sharon Pritchett (D); Miami Gardens
Representative Clovis Watson, Jr. (D); Gainesville
Representative Kionne L. McGhee (D); Cutler Bay
Representative Ramon Alexander (D); Tallahassee
Representative Wengay Newton (D); Tampa
Representative Kamia Brown (D); Orlando
Representative Tracie Davis (D); Jacksonville
Representative Barrington Russell (D); Lauderhill
Representative Sean Shaw (D); Tampa
Representative Patrick Henry (D); Daytona Beach
Representative Kimberly Daniels (D); Jacksonville
Representative Patricia Hawkins-Williams (D); Fort Lauderdale
Representative Roy Hardemon (D); Miami
Representative Cynthia Stafford (D); Miami
Representative Byron Donalds (R); Naples
The quote on The Florida Legislative Black Caucus (FLBC) and its list of current members was contributed by Miriam Marlow who works with the FLBC.