The commission investigating the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida has included a recommendation in its preliminary report that classroom teachers who volunteer and undergo training should be allowed to carry guns in school.
The 15-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school public safety commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the 446-page report containing that proposal and a slew of other recommendations, many geared towards “hardening” schools as potential targets for mass shooters. The recommendations are now in the hands of outgoing state governor Rick Scott, governor-elect Ron DeSantis and the state legislature.
Other changes proposed include ensuring school classroom doors can lock from the inside, mandatory lockdown training for teachers, and funding to install bulletproof glass on all school windows by the year 2025.
Juliana Simone Carrasco, a high school student and volunteer with the campaign group Students Demand Action, said in response to the recommendation: “As a student attending school in Florida, I am appalled that the commission that was established to make schools in our state safer is recommending teachers carry guns.”
Carrasco added in a statement released by the Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group: “I don’t want my teachers to be armed, I want my elected leaders to pass policies to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous intentions to begin with.”
Other critics added their opposition to the proposed policy.
“There is no evidence that arming teachers makes kids safer,” said Gay Valimont, volunteer leader with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Our children deserve real solutions to keep them safe from gun violence – like a criminal background check on every gun sale – not policies that will put them at even higher risk.”
The nation’s two largest organizations of education professionals, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have both repeatedly rejected calls for arming teachers as an answer to gun violence.
The idea, which is routinely floated after high-profile school shooting incidents, was given new life after being promoted by Donald Trump following the Parkland massacre. The National Association of School Resource Officers, the largest organization of school-based law enforcement officers, also opposes arming teachers.
The recommendation that would allow teachers to volunteer to carry weapons seeks to expand on a “guardian” program passed into law by the same school safety act that established the Marjory Stoneman Douglas commission in March 2018. Currently, the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program allows local school systems to partner with local sheriffs to arm eligible school employees who are not primarily classroom teachers.
The program is voluntary, must be approved by the school board and requires each participating staff member complete 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training.
The commission recommended that the state legislature “should expand the guardian program to allow teachers … to carry concealed firearms on campuses for self-protection, and the protection of other staff and students in response to an active assailant incident”.
The program’s namesake, Aaron Feis, died shielding students during the 2018 attack, and the attachment of his name to the provision angered some student activists because it is unknown whether Feis would have supported the controversial program.
The March school safety bill also included a number of limited gun control provisions including raising the legal age to purchase firearms to 21 and allowing a court to prohibit a violent or mentally ill individual from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
The recommendation is a very small part of the expansive report, which lays out in second-by-second detail what is believed to have happened before, during and after the 14 February 2018, shooting attack that left 17 dead and 17 wounded.
The report was also highly critical of the Broward county sheriff’s office, calling its active shooter policy for deputies at the time of the Parkland attack “insufficient” and “inconsistent with current and standard law enforcement practice”. The policy extends officers’ discretion on whether or not to enter the scene of a believed active shooter incident.
The report suggests the sheriff’s office “make [it] unequivocally clear that deputies are expected to immediately seek out an active assailant and that ‘containment’ is not the policy”.