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School Board OKs resolution against arming teachers

Members ultimately approved a statement 3-2 but not without differing views on how message should be articulated.

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  • | 10:25 a.m. April 3, 2019
A Sarasota County Schools Police Department vehicle sits outside of Sarasota High School.
A Sarasota County Schools Police Department vehicle sits outside of Sarasota High School.
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In a split vote Tuesday night, the Sarasota County School Board approved a non-binding resolution that articulates a message against arming teachers. 

The resolution emerged over community concerns regarding Florida Senate Bill 7030, which would allow each school district to make an individual choice on whether to arm its teachers as part of Florida’s Guardian Program. While all five school board members were unified in their position against arming teachers, they stood divided on SB 7030 as a whole, which also provides funding for a variety of other school-security matters.

Sarasota’s district in May will complete its first school year operating with an in-house police department, formed to satisfy state laws following the fatal attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland in February 2018. The department recently announced it was expanding to include all district schools, except those in Venice.

The 250-word resolution passed with a 3-2 majority, though not before debate on the best way to state the board’s case. Members Bridget Ziegler and Eric Robinson voted against the resolution, not over its overarching message, but over its final wording (see sidebar).

Similar to Robinson, Ziegler  suggested narrowing the focus of the resolution by omitting several clauses and reducing it to only the final presented statement:

“Should the School Board of Sarasota County, Florida be given the discretion to decide whether it will permit classroom teachers to carry firearms while on school property, it will choose not to allow classroom teachers to carry firearms while on school property.”

Before formal discussion began, Robinson suggested a one-sentence statement but failed to gain support for his proposal.

While she does not support arming teachers, Ziegler said, the resolution’s “whereas” clauses directly reference SB 7030, which she does support.

“I appreciate the autonomy — the local control — the Legislature would give us,” she explained of her attempted compromise.

But Goodwin, who ultimately provided the final vote in favor of the resolution, said she was indifferent to the legislation.

Additionally, she said she felt a single-sentence resolution would not be sufficient after Hillsborough County’s school board passed a similar single-sentence resolution, only for school board members to find themselves unsatisfied with both the process and the product.

“The reason that I put this together was because I wanted it to be a true resolution of the situation that we have today,” Goodwin said. “I just wanted to send a message to our parents, to our teachers, to our students, that we will not arm teachers.”



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