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East County Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2019 3 years ago

School Board of Manatee County hears opposition to arming teachers

The discussion of the issue will continue at the April 23 school board meeting.
by: Andrew Atkins Staff Writer

Every time Ahmad Ibsais finds himself at a movie, a community event, a mall — or any public place— he finds himself looking for the exits in case somebody pulls a gun and starts shooting.

“This is an ever-present threat,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean the Braden River High School senior wants teachers at his school carrying guns.

Ibsais and his peer, fellow Braden River senior Alana Kelly, were two of the overwhelming majority of people in the audience who spoke in opposition to arming teachers at the April 9 School Board of Manatee County meeting. The board could have to make that decision if pending state legislation is ratified.

“I came here this evening because I care,” Kelly said. “I care about what happens after I leave.”

Ultimately, the board tabled the discussion for the April 23 board meeting, though most board members said they did not want to arm teachers.

Board member James Golden said his fellow board members should take note of the opinions.

“What I am trying to get my fellow board members to appreciate is the overwhelming opposition of teachers, parents and the community at large,” he said. “They do not want their children going to school where teachers are armed. It’s not a question of whether it’s a good idea or if it makes it more secure or something that the experts in school security approve of.”

Following the meeting, Ibsais said that he plans to attend the next school board meeting if he can, and he’s encouraging his peers to come and speak out, too.

“Most of us would probably feel more alarmed if teachers were armed,” he said.

Kelly said she got involved with the issue of gun violence after the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“Obviously, it’s an issue that’s really important to me,” she said of her decision to speak at the school board meeting. “This is the world that I’ve grown up in. I’m 18 now, but at this point, we are the people who have a voice, so it is my objective to do everything I can to make a change.”

Kelly said she also plans to gather as many people as she can to attend the next school board meeting.

“I have thought since the idea was first brought up that it seems to be just an easy way out,” she said of arming teachers. “It’s kind of just a cop-out of making actual real progress on gun safety legislation.”

She said she believes it’s appropriate to pass legislation to make it harder to obtain guns, but not to arm teachers.

“They are exceptional people who definitely want to keep us safe,” Kelly said, but carrying a gun is “definitely not their job.”

Board member Scott Hopes said he wants to hear more from the community.

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