TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It's a bill that's drawn strong reaction on both sides of the political spectrum, and it's now headed to the governor's desk for signing into law.
- Parents have mixed views about arming teachers
- Armed teachers will be need police-style training
- Some Central Florida districts have no plans to arm teachers
Florida's GOP-controlled House passed a measure Wednesday that allows classroom teachers to legally carry guns. The bill is an expansion of the "guardian" program, born out of the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year in which 17 people were killed.
Parents have shared mixed reactions to the prospect of arming educators.
Some, like Angie Cerros, were in favor, saying it is another step to protect our children.
"I think if they are going to have training, I agree with it. I think they have to protect our kids inside the school," she said.
Others said it makes them feel unsafe and the responsibility should fall on law enforcement and school resource officers.
"I wouldn't send them to a friend's house if they have guns in their home, so I wouldn't want guns in our school because of the possibility of accidents to happen," Suzanna Barkataki said.
In March, Orange County Public Schools passed its own resolution, with the board unanimously opposing arming teachers.
The bill passed by the House with a vote of 65-47 expands the guardian program signed into law last year, which allowed school personnel with the exception of classroom teachers to be armed, provided they go through proper training. Under the new measure, the exception is removed.
With the bill, teachers would have to go through police-style training and psychological testing.
However, the guardian program is a voluntary one, and it's up to school districts to participate, as armed teachers are not required.
Most Central Florida school districts currently have no plans to arm teachers.
Orange County on Thursday stood by its earlier resolution.
"The board declared opposition to the arming of teachers in Orange County and therefore opposes the Bill that would allow the arming of teachers," said Lorena Arias, a spokeswoman for the district.
In Osceola, no board members have brought up the topic for discussion at a public meeting. "Our School Board has chosen to go the route of utilizing SROs instead of arming teachers," a spokesperson said.
Brevard Assistant Superintendent Matt Reed said the district chose last year not to participate in the volunteer-guardian program, instead choosing to hire trained security for schools that can't afford their share of the school resource officer cost.
"The board made that decision after weeks of listening to school staff, parents and students on the issue through surveys and a series of heavily attended town-hall meetings. The board has had no public discussions about whether to revisit the issue in light of new legislation," Reed said.
Seminole County doesn't plan to arm teachers, a district spokesman said, and a Volusia Schools spokesperson said its district will discuss the guardian program at a meeting this month.