On Thursday, March 21, the Florida House Education Committee passed out of committee a broad school safety bill (HB 7093) that would expand an existing guardian program to allow classroom teachers at private and charter schools to volunteer to carry weapons on campus if local school boards approve. (link)
On Friday, March 22, Henry Rex Weaver, 74 a substitute teacher at Blountsville Elementary School discharged his gun inside his pocket. A child was injured, treated at the scene of the crime, and released. (link)
On April 3, the bill, HB 7093 on School Safety, goes to the full house. A key part of the bill allows charter schools and private schools to have the Guardian program. If that passes, more teachers will be legally allowed to carry guns in classrooms. If people want to stop that, ALL members of the House and Senate need to see this story and other examples of failures of armed teachers. (See more examples below.)
Sadly, the Guardian program is already law, 49 school districts said NO to it, but 25 said yes and there are now 743 Armed Teachers employed in Florida. People should contact the legislators first, but as the education committee pointed out, school boards decide whether or not to implement the program. School boards need to hear about failures.
If the part of the bill that allows private or charter schools to arm teachers passes, school board members for those schools will need to hear about the problems, failures and costs of armed teacher programs, so they won't vote to implement them.
This ongoing education about day-to-day gun failures is very necessary because after the next mass shooting the uninformed public will say again, "We should arm teachers!"
The public doesn't see the daily stories of gun accidents across the country. But I do since I get 3 to 5 every day from my Google Alert. These cases of armed individuals failing need to get to people making decisions about putting guns in the hands of teachers. Just because a legislator or school board didn't hear something bad, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
I expect some people in communities to make uninformed statements like, "I haven't heard anything bad happening, so it must be fine." But it's especially distressing when legislators and school board members are ignorant of the evidence of problems with teachers carrying concealed weapons in school.
When people say they haven't heard anything bad happening with the teachers carrying guns, we need people in the room to stand up and say,
"Really? Well you must not be reading the documents and emails I get. For example I've got multiple cases of failures of armed teachers, police and staff on school Campuses (link) and almost 200 failures of trained police and school resources officers vs one success (link)
Using the Gun Violence Archive I can show you right now the last 3 months worth of cases of negligence with guns in our city and state as well as throughout the country. Using the Center for Homeland Defense and Security K-12 School Shooting Database I can show you how each school shooting incident ended
I can also show you what works. I have documents showing past and current cases where shootings were prevented by alert mental health professionals, social workers or families like the one right before the Parkland shooting. In states that have Red Flag laws, like Maryland, I have examples of how they were used to remove weapons from people who threatened to shoot up a school.
For those repeating the falsehood that only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns, let me show you cases of shootings stopped by people without using guns. (Here is one by Jason Seaman, a former defensive end now a science teacher who ‘immediately ran up to a shooter, "swatted the boy’s cocked gun out of his hand before tackling the pupil to the ground."
And, finally, before you vote to bring a new liability to the schools in your district, let me tell you about the multi-million dollar lawsuits that school boards, school districts and insurance companies seal and don't want to talk about. Heck, I can even direct you to the Tumblr page on guns left in bathrooms.
I've watched a LOT of hearings, town halls and panels on guns in schools. I watched how people pushed to get more guns in schools with misinformation, slogans and fear. The people who are in decision-making positions need to be constantly shown that armed teacher programs are failures. For some boards it will be a reminder they did the right thing to not implement the program, for others it can provide more evidence not to start an armed teacher programs.
Last year I watched a lot of smart people go to school boards to convince them not to implement the Armed Teacher Program. Last week I watched as Education Board Chair Jennifer Sullivan implied that because nothing bad has happened in the Florida program in 7 months, people are being unfair to not trust the newly armed teachers.
One of the other things that I've learned about legislation and the decision-making process of school boards is that you need multiple ways and types of people to counter the incorrect statistics and bumper sticker logic used by the believers of the "more guns are the solution to gun violence" message.
People read, but most don't absorb everything without multiple personal exposures to the information. It's time for school boards and legislators to hear from the teachers and trained police who failed when it came to using a gun in schools. Florida could start with Sean Simpson, a Parkland chemistry teacher who left his gun in a restroom. (Who pays for armed teachers gun accidents?)
I don't think Henry Rex Weaver will come in voluntarily, but it would be good to track down those teachers who shot themselves in the bathroom and have them speak to school boards who are considering the program. Antonio White, 1st Vice President United Teachers of Dade, gave examples of failures at 26:10 in the hearing. Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the SPLC Action Fund mentioned gunfail teachers at 57:36 in the hearing.
Also, for those providing the evidence, I suggest you be prepared for the feelings of board members, since those often don't respond to facts and evidence. I recommend in-person meetings to show them the evidence and address their questions and concerns before public sessions.
I've learned that sometimes you need to be polite and other times you need to push back, in real-time, against a disingenuous narrative. Please watch the excellent testimony of Nicolette Springer, M.S., Legislative Advocate from the League of Women Voters. Here is the link to the whole committee session, Springer starts at 33:40.
Then watch at 38:30 as Springer pushed back on a disingenuous talking point by Rep. Randy Fine on teachers vs police. Fine, whose bullying of others is so egregious the editorial board of Florida Today called him out on it last year, continued to use multiple bullying techniques throughout the session.
Multiple members of the Florida House and Senate will vote on the amended bill this session. If it passes, charter and private school boards will have the ability to implement an Armed Teachers Program. If they have the opportunity what will their boards be basing their decisions on? Real evidence of the increased danger of more guns in schools, or hopes and prayers?
In my next piece I'll talk about evidence and presenting it to school boards and legislators. Basic Math: More People With Guns Equals More Gun Accidents.