Parents of students impacted by the 2018 shooting massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school are speaking out after lawmakers approved a controversial bill that would allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom.
The Florida Senate approved the bill by a 22-17 vote Tuesday, going against the wishes of a vast majority of families affected by the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, one Republican joined Democrats in opposing the expansion of a program created last year in response to the shooting that left 17 people dead.
Former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz is charged in the bloody Valentine’s Day attack.
Under SB 7030, participating school districts would allow teachers to be armed once they’ve completed 144 hours and undergone a psychological evaluation, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The move is part of a so-called “Guardian Program” launched by a state commission created to suggest school safety measures.
Proponents of the bill said it would provide more funds for school security, mental health counseling and would require regular school safety reports. As of now, there are 25 school districts participating in the Guardian Program with 14 more still considering it, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“Here are things that have been asked for — local control, more decision making at the ground level and a response to the commission that gone in and study this,” Sen. Dennis Baxley, (R-Ocala) said. “Just listen to the voice of reason rather than chants of these issue differences that we have about what does keep us all safer.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Stoneman Douglas shooting, is against the bill, however, and said he was “bitterly disappointed” by how lawmakers voted.
“The idea that a teacher with a [presumably] locked weapon has the ability to react to somebody who walks in with an AR-15 is comical and moronic and dishonest,” Guttenberg told Newsweek. “And it’s what senators voted for yesterday.”
For the grieving dad, arming teachers is a suggestion that should’ve never been made.
“What [senators] voted for yesterday is to introduce guns into the everyday reality of school” he added. “It is going to increase the risk of gunfire [and] casualty in schools, not decrease it. Unfortunately, … they still don’t get it.”
Guttenberg’s concerns have been echoed by parents of Black students and other students who feel that arming teachers will only increase incidents of violence against Blacks.
“Educators are essentially deputized,” one Twitter user said of the bill.” This isn’t good for Black students, who are disproportionately disciplined anyway.”
“Black kids are going to be coming up short left and right all because white teachers are simply going to say ‘He [or] She made me feel uncomfortable,’ ” another user argued.
One critic urged Black parents “watch your children because as soon as one of the wrong teachers sees your Black child as a Thug and a threat, the fatalities begin … SMMFH!!!”
Others encouraged Black parents to start homeschooling their kids to avoid the issue altogether.
The controversial bill will now head to the Florida House, where it’s expected to receive overwhelming support. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he will sign the measure into law if it passes.