As of October 1, 2019, the Aaron Feis law that allows school personnel and teachers to be armed at school is in effect in the state of Florida. The law was passed as a result of the recommendations of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas commission. It was one of several recommendations intended to provide additional physical security at schools throughout the state.
The Guardian act allows counties and school districts to choose if they’d like to be part of the program. To participate, teachers must go through several steps, including a background check and a 144-hour training course.
As of October 1, 2019, 36 out of 67 Florida counties are participating. However, that doesn’t mean there are armed teachers in those 36 counties. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, only 11 of the 36 participating counties have expressed an interest in arming teachers.
In a September Florida Senate Education Committee meeting, Damien Kelly, director of the state Office of Safe Schools was not able to provide any statistics as to how many teachers or staff have expressed interest in or enrolled to participate in the program.
The program would aid in the state requirement to have an armed guard on school premises throughout the day. For schools that don’t have resource officers due to a lack of funding or availability, an armed staff member would satisfy this requirement.
Proponents of the law feel this is especially important in more rural areas where first responder resources are more limited or geographically challenging. In cases where help may be miles and minutes away, supporters feel armed staff can provide a last level of defense to protect students.
Many who voted in favor of the law feel it empowers each county to make decisions based on what’s right for them and the safety of their students.
Senator Ed Hooper, who voted in favor of the law told Parentology, “Based on the recommendations of the Stoneman Douglas commission, this allows the districts to decide. There may never be an armed teacher in the state of Florida and that’s perfectly okay, too.”
Opponents of the new law feel it puts both teachers and students at additional risk. “We’re absolutely opposed to arming teachers. It would introduce all kinds of safety issues into the classroom,” FEA President Frederick Ingram told, Parentology, earlier this year.
Parkland student activist Cameron Kasky was very vocal in his opposition to the law taking effect on Tuesday, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “We have a generation of children who are frightened to go into school. The thought that their teachers, a force of authority, are going to be armed — that is detrimental to our generation. It frightens them.”
While the law is in effect, it remains to be seen the extent to which counties will participate and how many, if any teachers will be armed. The nation will be watching closely as Florida navigates this new territory.