This Week's Poll


Florida is arming teachers
Suwannee one of 7 districts

By Tami Stevenson

According to a state law enacted this month, teachers in the Suwannee County School District, along with six other districts in Florida, will be allowed the option to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. The other six districts are Bay, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Okeechobee and Putnam counties.

Last May, the Florida Senate approved a school safety bill (SB 7030) expanding on a safety measure known as the guardian program that was created after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left fourteen students and three staff members dead in minutes in February of 2018. The previous legislature did not allow full-time teachers to carry concealed weapons. This new law now allows them to carry guns on campus, once local school boards agree and their training is successfully completed.

The recent legislation continues to require a district school board to opt-in to the guardian program through a majority vote and require employees who volunteer to pass a multi-layered list of qualifications including a psychological evaluation and 144 hours of other required training. The bill also requires the employee to complete the required training to the Sheriff’s satisfaction and then be appointed by the superintendent or charter school principal, as applicable.

Although, those opposed to this legislature want to know who, exactly, will be packing heat and make it public knowledge – the state is not tracking how many teachers are taking part in the program. Suwannee County School District Superintendent Ted Roush said, “It is for everyone’s safety. As a private citizen, when I go into a public venue, whether it is a football stadium a concert or into church, I don’t want to necessarily visibly see every security measure that is in place. That would kind of defeat the purpose.” He added, there are certain reasons why some things are classified, it is for the public’s safety and as a deterrent. He added that he thinks this should make parents and community members feel good that they have additional safety measures in place that they don’t have advertised.

Roush went on to say that their selection process, training program, and implementation are highly rigorous and exceed minimum standards.  “We believe, without a single doubt, that we have not only done the right thing, but the responsible and completely lawful thing.  In the dreadful event that something ever were to happen in the Suwannee County School District, I want to be able to look at my community and say, ‘We had every measure in place provided for by law...we did the very best that we could do.’”

The Suwannee County School District already has guardians in place across all school departments and across all school sites within the district, in addition to the school resource officers that are there, according to Roush.

Roush added in an email that just like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and fire alarms are utilized to increase the likelihood that folks get out of a burning building...there is no guarantee that these devices will save lives, however, we all have them to improve the odds of reducing injuries and casualties related to a fire event.  

In the same belief, having highly trained guardians, in addition to every school having a school resource officer, across all school district facilities, improves the odds of reducing injuries and casualties in the unfortunate event that an active assailant is on a school site.  We have chosen to embrace the gun as another life-safety, life preserving tool.  The gun itself is not the enemy in mass casualty events.  It is the evil person/people that choose the gun as their weapon of choice.  Some have chosen to run automobiles into crowds of people, others crash airplanes into buildings, and even others the use of bombs and other explosive devices.  The gun itself is not violent...hence the term “gun violence” is a misnomer, Roush commented.

In light of the massive loss of innocent lives in the last few years due to horrific school shootings across the country and within the state, many parents in the North Florida area with children in school say the thought of their child’s teacher being trained and carrying a gun to protect them, if need be, is a very good concept and one they embrace.

Seconds matter in these situations. The Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lasted only 5 minutes and 32 seconds, from first to last shot.