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Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: Commission Concludes Teachers Should Be Armed

Students, parents condemn the finding, cite research that shows more firearms in schools put children at higher risk

School Shooting Florida, Parkland, USA - 15 Feb 2018

Two people comfort each other as they sit and mourn at one of seventeen crosses, after a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 15, 2018.

Gerald Herbert/AP/Shutterstock

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is concluding their investigation into the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February, 2018, and has completed a draft of their recommendations to prevent anything like it from happening again — including allowing teachers in Florida schools to carry guns.

The Commission, part of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, voted 13-to-one to recommend allowing teachers who volunteer — and undergo extensive background checks and training — to carry guns. Florida law already allows other school personnel, such as principals and librarians, to be armed, but not teachers.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the Commission’s chairman, argued for the measure during their last meeting, saying that most deaths during mass shootings happen within the first few minutes, before police have time to respond, and that if teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had been armed, they could have stopped shooter Nikolas Cruz when he stopped to reload his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

The Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action, both a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, condemned the Commission’s recommendation in a statement.

“Research indicates that arming teachers will make children less safe,” the statement says. “For this reason, school safety experts, teachers and law enforcement officials across the country oppose arming teachers.

“As a student attending school in Florida, I am appalled that the commission that was established to make schools in our state safer is recommending teachers carry guns,” Juliana Simone Carrasco, a high school student and volunteer with Students Demand Action, was quoted as saying in the statement. “I don’t want my teachers to be armed, I want my elected leaders to pass policies to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous intentions to begin with.”

In addition to the recommendation to arm teachers, the Commission also identified several failures and oversights at the high school that allowed the shooting to be as deadly as it was, CBS Miami reports, including unlocked gates, inadequate video camera coverage, and a lack of PA system speakers in the hallways. The report also found former Deputy Scot Peterson, the school resource officer, was “derelict in his duty” and “failed to act consistent with his training and fled to a position of personal safety” during the shooting, and that several sheriff’s deputies failed to immediately confront the shooter when arriving at the scene. Their final findings will be delivered to the governor’s office and the state legislature on January 1st.

The Florida chapter of the ACLU raised concerns about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which included the creation of the commission, when it went into effect earlier this year. The Act calls for more law enforcement at schools, which the ACLU warned could lead to an increase in student arrests for petty crimes, and that students of color are likely to be disproportionately impacted.

“Because the Legislature did not provide enough funding to station a law enforcement officer at every school,” they noted on their web page about the Act, “there is increased pressure for schools to use school guardians and/or to siphon funds away from other educational programs that could be more effective at preventing risks to school safety.”

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