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Judge Rules In Favor of Florida District Seeking to Arm School Guardians

A group sued a Jacksonville district for arming school safety assistants, but the district said it was just trying to meet standards set by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

A judge has ruled that a Jacksonville, Fla. school district can arm its school safety assistants after a group of parents and students sued the district to stop administrators from doing so.

In Florida, all school districts are mandated to have a school police officer at every campus thanks to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

But Duval County Public Schools realized it couldn’t afford to hire officers, and put forth a solution that would allow them to hire armed school safety assistants instead. The guards are non-law enforcement officers trained and hired to patrol elementary schools across the district.

The program faced substantial opposition from parents and students who said the practice should be prohibited by a state law banning anyone besides law enforcement to carry firearms on a campus, The Florida Times-Union reported. A group of concerned residents filed a lawsuit nearly a year ago.

On Monday, Circuit Court Judge Robert Dees agreed with the school district attorneys that the school safety legislation intended for “school guardians” -- non-law enforcement security guards -- to be authorized to carry firearms on campus, regardless of previous laws.

“Even though I think it was a passive way to authorize guardians to carry firearms, I do think that they intended to bring school guardians within the exception to those who are prevented from carrying firearms on school campuses," Dees told the court. "So that’s going to be the ruling."

John Raphael, the lead attorney for the students and parents suing the district, said the entire case comes down to whether or not Duval County has the power to enact the policy.

“No court has addressed that question … The reality is that they [the school board’s representation] have not pointed to a section here today or in their brief that says schools don’t commit a crime by allowing guns in their school,” Raphael told the Union.

Jon Phillips, the Jacksonville city attorney, maintained that the Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission legislation did give schools permission to arm school guardians in order to meet the mandated safety requirements.

"Their position is that the rule is ambiguous and it’s still a felony for all these people who are carrying guns to be carrying guns," Phillips told the court. "It’s funny how nobody’s been arrested for the felony they say our guardians are committing everyday."

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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