Education

Gov. DeSantis signs controversial bill arming teachers in Florida public schools

With little fanfare, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Wednesday that allows teachers to be armed in classrooms of public schools.

Although the 54-page Senate Bill 7030 sparked days of debate and was one of the most contentious bills of the 2019 legislative session, DeSantis drew as little attention as possible in making it law, holding no news conference or ceremony.

Instead, his office blasted a late afternoon, two-paragraph email stating that he signed it at some point Wednesday, the same day that he had received it from the Legislature.

The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

For teachers and other staff to be armed, school districts must opt-in to the so-called “Guardian program,” which allows teachers and other staff to volunteer to carry a gun on campus after getting screened and trained by a sheriff’s office. Lawmakers established that program last year in response to the Feb. 14, 2018, Parkland massacre, which killed 17 students and staff members.

The program, however, didn’t allow teachers who “exclusively perform classroom duties” to carry guns, partly on the urging of former Gov. Rick Scott.

But after a commission led by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recommended that the teachers be allowed to carry guns, lawmakers undid that exception. Supporters, mostly Republicans, argued that classroom teachers should be able to defend their students when all other protections fail. Democrats and the teachers’ unions strongly objected, saying it made schools less safe.

Earlier this week, a dozen activists dropped off a stack of papers with 13,000 signatures at DeSantis’ office, urging him to veto, but to no avail.

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