Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) signed a bill on Wednesday expanding eligibility for the state's school security program to include teachers.
By signing Senate Bill 7030, which passed the Florida Senate by a vote of 22-17 and the House by a vote of 65-47, DeSantis removed a rule barring teachers from participating in the state's new school security program. The Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program was created last year in honor of the Parkland football coach who sacrificed his own life to protect his students during one of the worst school shootings in American history.
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Under the previous law, the Guardian Program had a provision that explicitly forbade those who "exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers" from being eligible to volunteer for the program.
The removal of that provision was largely the result of recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission—a group of law enforcement and education officials as well as parents of students killed during the attack. The commission delivered a report earlier this year offering recommendations to improve school safety. The report called for changes to the state's School Resource Officer program, which stations sworn law enforcement officers in schools, but said it believed that program could only do so much.
"One SRO per campus is inadequate to ensure a timely and effective response to an active assailant situation," the report said.
The commission recommended schools use as many eligible staff members as possible to become Guardians.
"School districts and charter schools should permit the most expansive use of the Guardian Program under existing law to allow personnel—who volunteer, are properly selected, thoroughly screened, and extensively trained—to carry concealed firearms on campuses for self-protection and the protection of other staff and students," the report reads. "School districts and charter schools should not restrict the existing Guardian Program only to dedicated guardians, and all districts should expand the guardian eligibility to other school employees now permitted to be guardians."
The commission then went a step further, advocating that the state change the law in order to allow all teachers to volunteer for the Guardian Program.
"Further, the Florida legislature should expand the Guardian Program to allow teachers who volunteer—in addition to those now authorized—who are properly selected, thoroughly screened and extensively trained to carry concealed firearms on campuses for self-protection, and the protection of other staff and students in response to an active assailant incident," the report said. "The Legislature should modify Florida Statute 30.15 (1)(k) to state that upon a majority vote of the School Board, the sheriff shall establish a Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program to aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises."
School districts in Florida are not required to participate in the Guardian Program and most have yet to adopt it. Only 25 of the state's 67 school districts currently use the program, according to Fox News.
The new law will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2019.