At the March 26 workshop, board members also discussed bringing in officials from other school districts in order to learn more about similar resolutions that have passed elsewhere in the state.
As a bill on school security makes its way through the Florida legislature, Sarasota School Board members discussed the possibility of passing a non-binding resolution against arming teachers at their March 26 workshop.
SB 7030 is a bill in the Florida Senate that would potentially allocate more funding to “harden” schools and increase safety measures following the deaths of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland in 2018. But the bill also provides the opportunity for schools to arm teachers as an extension of Florida’s existing “Guardian” program.
The Florida Senate Education Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 7030, or the “School Safety and Security" bill, on Feb. 12, 2019, prompting the School Board on March 5 to add the resolution discussion to their March workshop agenda.
While all board members agreed that they are not in favor of arming teachers, not everybody was on board with implementing a resolution on the matter.
“I don’t support arming teachers, I just don’t know what the resolution says,” Eric Robinson said, citing concerns over why the resolution was necessary. “I think that would need to be something that would happen at another workshop. Not a meeting.”
Board Chair Jane Goodwin and Superintendent Todd Bowden, however, argued that the purpose of such a resolution would be to let both local teachers and community members know where the board stands, regardless of SB 7030.
“I think teachers are worried, and I’m very concerned with the safety and the concerns of teachers,” Goodwin said. “I’m not looking at this as a reflection of the bill.”
But Bridget Zeigler commented that, though she could never see herself in support of arming teachers, there was no way to account for might happen in the future.
Five years ago, she said, she would never have thought that the school district would institute its own internal police force.
“But,” she said, “Here we are.”
Some counties in Florida — such as Leon, Hillsborough and Broward — have already passed similar resolutions against the arming of on-campus educators.
The Board members discussed tentatively revisiting the resolution discussion at their April 16 workshop.