BONIFAY - Last Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that would allow teachers to be armed in their classrooms.
The bill (SB7030), which News Service Florida reports was widely backed by House and Senate Republicans and heavily opposed by gun-control activists, includes the guardian program granting classroom teachers the option to volunteer to serve as an armed line of defense on campus.
Currently, 30 of Florida’s 67 school districts have decided to allow trained and armed school staff members.
The program was created last year following the Marjory Stone Douglas School shooting in Parkland. It called for permitting school staff that do not have majority classroom duties to carry arms.
Under the bill signed Wednesday, classroom teachers can volunteer to participate, as well, if their districts allow it, and will be paid a one-time $500 stipend to do so.
Holmes County District Schools participates in the guardian program, however, the decision to allow teachers to carry is one that has yet to be brought up for discussion, said HCDS Superintendent Terry Mears, who expects the School Board to decide before the start of the next school year.
"It's an option that's going to be made with community input and the School Boards members," he said.
"We're going to follow the law. We're not going to do anything outside of the law," Mears added. "We need to do everything within the scope of providing a safe environment for our kids."
Last year, neighboring Bay County opted into the guardian program and has since granted classroom teachers the option to volunteer to participate as well.
Other changes included in the wide-ranging bill will put $75 million into school mental-health services, strengthen reporting requirements for potentially threatening incidents that happen on school premises, improve information-sharing between school districts on students with behavioral issues and continue investment in a tool that assists with school emergencies, according to a report by NSF's Ana Ceballos.
Since the start of 2019, there have 26 school shootings nationwide, the most recent on May 7 at a STEM school in Colorado.