As the Guardian Act becomes law in Florida it allows school districts to decide if they’d like the ability to arm additional staff, including teachers and support personnel. While the idea is the ability to arm additional personnel increases security, it leaves many concerned a growing number of armed individuals on school campuses could lead to a greater chance for accidental shootings or mishaps with firearms.
Earlier this year, a school resource officer in Pasco County was terminated after his firearm misfired in a crowded cafeteria. According to a study conducted by the Associated Press, between 2014-2018 more than 30 incidents of mishaps involving a firearm on a school campus were reported. This could be anything from a gun misfiring, to a loaded firearm accidentally left where students have access to it.
Opponents of the Guardian Act are concerned that by arming teachers and support staff who are already tasked with full-time jobs, the risk for mishaps may increase, possibly endangering students.
Andrew Spar, Vice President of the Florida Education Association (FEA) worries arming teachers adds too much to their already heavy load. “Teachers have multiple duties,” Spar tells Parentology. “They’re dealing with educating the child, the mental health of the child, they may be dealing with a child that’s scraped a knee on the playground. (They’re) not just worrying about the security of a school like a law enforcement officer.”
The FEA has spoken out against arming teachers since the Guardian Act was introduced. However, the Guardian Act also enables school districts to bring on additional personnel that aren’t necessarily law enforcement or school resource officers, but would go through the Guardian training program and serve as full-time security staff.
While it’s possible to see which districts voted to participate in the Guardian Act, there’s no real way to know if anyone at your child’s school is armed under the Guardian Act. Some districts have chosen to clearly identify additional armed security personnel as “Guardians” so students and teachers are aware of their role, but it varies by district and even by school.
The FEA has no issue with additional full-time security staff being trained and brought in under the Guardian Act, only with the idea of arming teachers and personnel that already have full-time responsibilities interacting with students. Spar says, “Our biggest concern in all of this is the fact that there is this idea of arming teachers and there are some districts in Florida where, in fact, they’re doing that.”