Monday, January 21, 2019

FL: Guns in Schools Not Going So Well

After the murder of seventeen people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High in Florida, the state legislature of the gun-happy sunshine state finally considered putting some common sense restrictions   on guns and ammo in the state. No, just fake newsing you-- what they did was decide they'd better arm more people in schools, because the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a gunfight in a building filled with children.

That was back last spring. Recently the Tampa Bay Times took a look at how the business of putting a "guardians" in schools was going. The short answer is "not well."

Brevard County was looking for two dozen new employees to be armed guardians. They had six months to find and train these people. Community pushback slowed down the process. They didn't make the deadline.

They weren't alone. Levy County went looking for guardians and couldn't even find people to apply at first. Their superintendent would not give the paper any numbers on applicants since then, saying "You don't want the bad guys to know whether you've got 100 or one." Sure. Okeechobee decided to join in the program, but the sheriff's office won't start training until this month. And the sheriff is not optimistic about the six-to-ten volunteers: "Out of that, I doubt we'll have that high rate of a success rate." Lafayette schools also began the year without their guardians, with a few finishing up their training this month.

Duval County has other sorts of problems. Parents, along with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the League of Women Voters sued the district in November to keep the "safety assistants" out of schools. It could not have helped the district's cause that one safety assistant was arrested in October for pawning his gun-- twice.

And he has not been the only problem child. A guardian in Hillsborough was showing her chemical spray to students and peppered four of them (she resigned immediately). In Manatee County, a guardian was fired when the Bradenten Herald took a look at his Facebook page and found a variety of posts about various conspiracy theories and apparent advocacy for violence.

Florida schools have the option of hiring actual trained law enforcement personnel. If they go the guardian route, they get a person with a gun who can't make arrests, but whose only function is to hang out at school and wait to have a gun battle with some active shooter. Who volunteers for that job? Because I'm betting you get some less-than-stellar law enforcement washout Rambo wannabes.

There are some districts that have had no issues so far, which basically means that so far nobody has been shot. No studies yet on what it does to the atmosphere of a school for students to know that some of their teachers are packing, or to know that the stranger hanging around the building is just there to shoot somebody, should it seem like a good idea.

But Florida is the state where all bad ideas go to spread their wings and fly. The best we can hope for here is that no serious permanent damage is done by this lousy idea.


  1. The only reason Florida districts are hiring guardians (glorified paraprofessionals) is that the legislature will NOT pony up the money needed to hire a certified law enforcement officer for each school.Oh, Florida! you're not the only state doing unfunded mandates, but you are determined to be in the lead.

  2. Here in NYS many parents are clamoring for school resource officers to protect their children from potential mass shooters. Ignored in the post-Lakeland panic is the simple fact that New York' schools are some of the safest places in the nation for school children. In the last 40 years there has been a grand total of one gun death and 8 gun injuries in a state of over 3 million students and 700 school districts. The call for school resource officers wrongly implies a danger and risk factor that simply does not exist. In fact the risk nationwide has been blown completely out of proportion, probably due to the horrific nature of the acts and the saturation of media coverage. The idea that teachers packing heat will keep kids safer makes our profession look utterly foolish.

  3. Peter: ( I know this is a little long, but what the hell?)
    Your article about the troubles with the guardians in Florida schools struck me as a reporting of one of the grotesques in the current concern about discipline in schools. But it reminded me of my experience as a negotiator for my teachers union in Madison, Wisconsin. Some years ago, an administration became upset about increasing tardiness and hallway loitering in middle and high schools. They first hired "rent a cops" to help supervise. It turned out that these cops were paid pretty close to minimum wages and usually were themselves only a year or two past graduation. They also happened to be from the mid to even lower stratums of graduates. This did not work well. They were somewhat casual about being at work and getting there on time. In addition, some of them decided that it was fun to "hit" on the high school girls. Not good. The administration then decided that teachers were needed in the hallways because only teachers knew students well enough to identify and corral them. There was a problem, however. The thought was that the only was teachers would do the hall supervision was to have administrators assign them on a rotating and equitable basis. That brought up a bigger problem. Our union contract only permitted teachers to be have five assignments--class periods--plus a short homeroom. regardless of whether the school day had a four, six, seven, eight period school day. The administration found that it could only assign teachers if it did so within the contractual five assignments or try to convince teachers to v volunteer for an overload and pay them 16% of their salary. Well, consternation ensued and negotiations began. We first suggested that they should hire full time and qualified security officers, pay them a decent salary, give them benefits, and treat them well. In the end they did so and it worked well and still does as far as I know. You know what? Those employees got to know the students very quickly. We also negotiated that teachers could volunteer for hall duty if they wished to and would receive compensatory days off for their services. Of course, there were limitations on how many comp days a teacher could earn and on when they could use them, but that settlement worked out just fine.
    By the way, the high schools and middle schools also had EROs on duty, a practice which is under question in the current school board election campaign.
    Mike Schwaegerl retired English teacher, Madison., Wisconsin

  4. 1) I taught at two schools that were staffed with school resource officers from the Richland County (SC) sheriff's dept. (If you've seen A&E's Live PD, that's one of the dept's.)

    My experience with them & from what I heard from students they were a very positive influence. Students could & did go to them with problems that were included both within & without the school campus.

    2) All of them were very professional and all, except one, (I kinda hate to say this blatantly) were black. They were very positive role models in large schools with only a gew black teachers.

    3) Here's the thing that any & every professional cop or soldier will tell anybody...tactically, guns do NOT stop bullets. It's the first bullet that hits the target which counts. Every cop that gets shot on duty has a firearm.

    4) Tactically, when trained cops are in combat situations, much less than 50% of their handgun shots are on target. Almost all the f'ing 'arm the teacher' idiots envision a well-trained, well-practiced teacher with a Glock .40 handgun stopping a bad guy. If you've ever shot one of these, even if you're very proficient, you'd understand the problem.

  5. Mr. Greene, you are hilarious! I enjoy your dry wit on a variety of topics, and have learned a great deal from you about the state of education in the US.

    Despite all I've learned here, which really should send any sensible person running for the hills, I just entered grad school in Curriculum & Instruction and began substitute teaching.

    I had to intervene in a physical altercation between two trash-talking third graders and press the button on the wall to summon security assistance on my first day as a sub. I had to take the rest of the class outside for an extra recess period while the principal and security "deescalated" the situation. Fun!

    Anyway, I have trouble imagining myself "packing" in the classroom; I picture myself kneeling down on the reading rug just to tie some little kid's shoes while the other kids notice and comment on the gun holster on my belt. Absurd.

    I prefer that trained law enforcement officers be the only ones carrying weapons on the premises. As a sub, I have enough to worry about just stopping kids from poking each other with pencils. I don't understand their obsession with the pencils! And their constant yen for sharpening! But I digress...