Two more law enforcement officers lost their jobs for neglect of duty in the 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Highs School in Parkland. Broward Sheriff’s Deputies, Edward Eason and Joshua Stambaugh were fired this week. Sgt. Brian Miller, the first supervisory officer on the scene was fired earlier this month. Scot Peterson, the school resource officer was not only fired after the shooting, but additionally criminally charged earlier this month. Begging the question, how will Florida teachers participating in the expanded Guardian Act be held accountable in the event of a school shooting?
The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, named for the Parkland Coach who died during the shooting, is completely voluntary. Participants will have to pass a psychological screening, background check, drug test and personal interview to be allowed to participate. Once they’re admitted into the program, they will complete 132 hours of firearm safety training. That training includes 36 hours in “precision pistol” which covers everything from shooting simulators to active shooter drills. It also states that they must, “successfully complete ongoing training, weapon inspection, and firearm qualification on at least an annual basis.”
According to Broward College’s Institute of Public Safety, the Police Academy, “that provides training to prepare a student for the physical and mental demands of a career as a Florida police officer or deputy sheriff” is 22 weeks long and 770 hours. In light of the recent terminations by the Broward County Sheriff’s office, officers with almost seven times the amount of training were unable to fulfill their duties at the 2018 shooting. How will educators be expected to perform with only a fraction of that training? What liability will Guardian participants have in the event of a school shooting?
Will these new terminations be a deterrent for teachers that initially wanted to participate in the Guardian Program?
Florida Education Association (FEA) President Fedrick Ingram told Parentolgy earlier this month, “We are absolutely opposed to arming teachers.” Now, as more trained Broward County Sheriff’s deputies are being let go for their role in the shooting, Ingram’s concerns for teachers are even more relevant, “There are issues of responsibility and legal liability. If an active shooter situation arises, do armed teachers stay with their classes and protect their kids, or do they run out to confront the shooter? Could they be charged with a crime for failing to leave their students and go after an assailant?”
Because this legislation is new there are no legal precedents, leaving the question of legal liability a bit of an unknown. Since Guardian participants are volunteers will they fall under the Good Samaritan Act? Or will they be held to a higher standard because they have been trained and armed? Ingram is concerned about that unknown for teachers, “We don’t know, but we do know that arming teachers will create new, potentially deadly risks for our students and school staff.”