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Flagler Schools turns down option to arm teachers, staff | #schoolsaftey

BUNNELL, Fla. — Faced with a decision on whether to join a program that would allow staff and teachers to be armed with guns on campus, the school board at Flagler County Public Schools opted to not move forward on it.

What You Need To Know

  • The school board voted 3-2 against implementing the guardian program
  • The program allows for staff and teachers to be armed on campus following training
  • The board said it would revisit the issue down the road

The 3-2 vote came after a roughly 40-minute discussion between school board members during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

On the table was a resolution to begin the grant request process that would fund their entry into what is known formally as the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” The program was born from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

The program at Flagler County Public Schools proposed up a system of vetting district staff through a mental health exam and background check followed by 144 hours of training with local law enforcement before an individual would be allowed to carry a firearm on campus.

Michael Cocchiola, an Army veteran who spoke out against the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting, said he was glad to see the board vote it down. He argued there were not nearly enough specifics on the program to allow for a vote and that it wouldn’t help make school campuses safer.

“There’s no situation where more guns, added to a stressful situation, help the situation. It does not. So, that’s ill-thought of, ill-thought out,” Cocchiola said. “Right now, we have no idea what the program would look like and yet, they were going to vote on it, right? No, that’s insane.”

School Board Member Will Furry, a vocal proponent of the program, argued that getting what amounts to 18, eight-hour days of training from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office would be more than sufficient to allow for additional armed, but plainclothes individuals to be present on campus, especially in an active shooter scenario.

“I can’t think of a reason why we wouldn’t want to have extra support for our SRDs [School Resource Deputies] in, God forbid, a moment like that because lives can be spared when seconds count.”

Several counties around Central Florida, including Brevard, Osceola, and Volusia counties, opted to join the Guardian Program. However, proving the program’s effectiveness may be difficult.

According to the K-12 Database, which tracks incidents of firearms being pulled or fired on school campuses across the U.S. going back to the 1960s, stated that looking at how incidents with a firearm ended, only 44 times or 1.9 percent of incidents ended with a School Resource Officer either apprehending or killing the person with the gun.

That was also the same number for cases where the suspect was subdued by “Students/Staff/Other.” The percentage of cases where the suspect was classified as “Fled/Apprehended” or “Fled/Escaped” were 38.1% and 33.8% respectively.

During her comments before casting what turned out to be the tie-breaking vote, Board Chair Cheryl Massaro said she went through the process and kept an open mind. She said what finally persuaded her was hearing from the principals who said they didn’t want this.

“They’re not ready and if they’re not ready, we have to consider that more than anything cause they’re the ones that are going to going to be there,” Massaro said.

The board indicated that it would be open to considering the program again down the road. They discussed some possible changes that would make it more palatable, but nothing was set in stone at Tuesday’s meeting.

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