The Florida State House passed a bill this week that allows teachers to carry firearms in school. Before the passage of the proposal, the bill saw rigorous debate and many Democrats passionately raised concerns over — among other things — an increased and disproportionate risk over the safety of African American students.
The tension of the discussion peaked when Rep. Shervin D. Jones, who represents the city of West Park near Fort Lauderdale, unsuccessfully attempted to pass two amendments on the House floor aimed at protecting children from a scenario that an armed teacher in a chaotic situation could assume that a Black student was a threat.
“We are talking about Black boys and girls who are getting murdered by police officers!” he shouted into the microphone. “There are bad police officers and there are bad teachers.”
The amendments would require a teacher who enrolls in the “school guardian” program to be trained in implicit bias and prohibit a teacher who shoots a student by mistake in an active shooter situation from claiming self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.
“There’s a reality that some of us have that some of you on the front row could care less about,” Mr. Jones said. “I fight for those people!”
Governor Ron DeSantis, who is a Republican, is expected to sign the House bill soon. Many school districts in some of Florida’s bigger cities, with large numbers of Black and Hispanic students, have declined to participate in the guardian program.
In Broward County, where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 people dead and 17 wounded happened, Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a letter to school board members and the school district superintendent on Wednesday that he did not agree that putting guns in the hands of teachers increases student’s safety.
“Arming teachers is not the right approach to keep our children safe,” he wrote. “This program would place students, teachers and first responders at risk, when our focus should be on keeping our students safe and making schools places where they feel they belong.”