With the increase in school shootings throughout the United States over the last several years and the growing movement of students and parents standing up against gun violence, politicians are trying to catch up. On Wednesday 8 May, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial Senate Bill just a day after a Colorado STEM school shooting left eight people injured and one dead. This bill is one of the first pieces of state legislation trying to counteract the public’s fears of active shooters in schools. Earlier that week, activists delivered papers to the capital with 13,000 signatures of people urging DeSantis to veto the bill.
Senate Bill 7030 instates the Guardian Program, which allows teachers and other school staff members volunteer to be screened and trained by the sheriff’s office to carry guns on campus. Former Governor Rick Scott urged the program not to accept teachers who “exclusively perform classroom duties,” but the exception was removed from the bill by recommendation of the Pinellas County Sheriff lead commission. The bill’s official title is “Implementation of Legislative recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.” In February 2018, 17 people were killed by a student shooter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. School districts can opt out of the Guardian Program, but the bill itself has imposed many other changes in how active shooter situations are handled and how new security policies will change the school environment in Florida.
The bill will not go into effect until October 2019, but many Americans throughout the country are outraged, citing concerns that the bill will make schools even less safe and questioning how students’ mentalities towards teachers will change. Many people believe they already have. An Indiana school’s active shooter drills have come to the attention of locals and the media for “apparently shooting teachers ‘execution style’ with pellets” in front of students and administers. Some schools are using masked men with fake weapons and even letting students covered in fake blood pretend to be victims, according to a BBC report.
This whole situation creates a lot of questions, both political and personal. Just two years ago I was a Florida high school student, and now I attend a University in Florida. I am personally concerned about how all these policies will also change things for college students. At the high school level, will this program become a reason for parents to request that their child be switched to another school, if certain school districts opt out? How will students be able to focus and trust their educators with guns in the classroom? Who will be allowed to know which faculty members are trained to be armed? If students are unaware of who has the right to carry arms in their schools, they may call security on those who are meant to be protecting them. Additionally, will it be required that substitute teachers be notified of who in the building is armed? Will guns be stored in classrooms, or will administrators be walking the halls with firearms?
I hope that further research and governmental investigations into these programs will answer these questions and many more. Schools were always meant to be safe havens for children to grow and learn. Their only concern should be their coursework, not finding the best hiding spots in the building or whether or not they should try to confront intruders.
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