Lawmakers’ push to arm teachers in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., has some parents very concerned — particularly for Black and Latino students.
Florida legislators celebrated the passage of the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” on March 7, a bill establishing a voluntary “guardian” program to allow certain personnel to carry firearms in schools, CNN reported. The decision comes nearly a month after a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at the school, killing 17.
State Democrats fought to remove the provision from the legislation, however, arguing that nonwhite students, who often face disproportionate levels of punishment compared to their white peers, could become unintended targets. Yet, their efforts were unsuccessful.
“My voice was never heard,” Miami-area Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon lamented. “No one heard our cry.”
Some parents of Black students voiced similar concerns and threatened to pull their kids from school if their districts chose to implement the controversial new program. Sulaya Williams, a 35-year-old mother of three who works at a local school, believes “It’s gonna be target practice” once guns start entering the classrooms.
“We have already been traumatized and looking over our shoulder after everything that happened with Trayvon Martin and what happened in Ferguson and everywhere else,” Williams told CNN, noting how the shootings of unarmed Black men in recent years have put communities of color on heightened alert. “… And now we’re going to be sitting here wondering are our kids going to be targets while going to school?”
Study after study has shown how school disciplinary policies are more frequently wielded against Black and brown students, so it’s no wonder why parents and lawmakers are concerned. The National Women’s Center reported that African-American girls are 5 times more likely to be suspended from school than their white counterparts. Meanwhile, 18 percent of Black boys receive out-of-school suspension versus just 5 percent of their white peers.
“It does not take a great deal of imagination to contemplate instances in which armed teachers dealing with recalcitrant children will react out of fear and racial stereotype and discharge their weapons as they do the disciplinary code,” Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote in an opinion piece for TIME. “… More than two dozen black lawmakers, in particular, are keenly aware that letting educators pack heat is a ‘.recipe for disaster.’ They get it.”
While Democratic and Republican lawmakers both want to ensure schools are safe spaces, they fail to agree on whether putting more guns in schools is the right solution.