Number of Teachers Allowed To Carry Guns in Florida Schools Remains Unknown
Some lawmakers say they are not concerned with knowing how many educators are participating in the school guardian program, and just with the number of districts who have opted in.
- By Haley Samsel
- December 12, 2019
The number of teachers who are licensed to carry guns in Florida schools is still unknown, and Republican lawmakers who championed legislation for school guardians say they do not need to know statewide statistics.
State Sen. Kelli Stargel, who serves as charwoman of the Senate’s education budget-writing committee, told The News Service of Florida that keeping track of the numbers, and how the guardian program has been rolled out across the state, is not a top concern for her.
“I am not worried if they are a classroom teacher or not,” Stargel told a reporter. “In fact, I think the more anonymous the better.”
While the school guardian program has existed since 2018, an expansion of the program allowing teachers to participate was approved by the Republican-held legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year.
The Florida Department of Education defines guardians as “armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises.” Guardians can be school employees who volunteer for the position or personnel hired specifically to act as school security. All guardians must pass psychological and drug screenings as well as complete at least 144 hours of training.
Stargel said that the information about where guardians are located should be confidential because not knowing whether or not someone carries a weapon on campus is a deterrent to shooters.
Other Republican lawmakers in the state agreed, saying that it is more important to know the number of districts who have opted into the program rather than specific school campuses. The Florida department of education says that 38 of 67 school districts participate in the guardian program, but does not specify if teachers are armed. That information is confidential under a law that exempts “security and fire safety system plans” from being a public record.
State Sen. Janet Cruz, a Democrat, said that she believes the information is not publicized or maintained because it would show that the teacher guardian program is a “failure.”
“Leadership wants to make sure that they don’t have to admit that this program is a failure,” Cruz said.
The guardian program is still new and the governor’s office wants to offer time to “best accommodate school districts and sheriff offices,” according to Helen Ferre, a spokeswoman for the governor.
“The guardian funds are not sitting idle, applications continue to roll in and are being processed,” Ferre said.
Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.