Op-Ed

Black boys will be the primary victims if teachers bring guns into the classroom | Opinion

Florida governor signed a bill to allow teachers to carry gun

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the media on arming teachers during the signing an education bill into law at William J. Kirlew Junior Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist K-8 school in Miami Gardens, on Thursday, May 9, 2019.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the media on arming teachers during the signing an education bill into law at William J. Kirlew Junior Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist K-8 school in Miami Gardens, on Thursday, May 9, 2019.

While some have viewed schools as inherently safe, that hasn’t always been the case for black students.

The truth is that black students are far more likely to face harsher punishment in school than their white counterparts. From suspensions to arrests, schools have provided us with a first-hand look at the racial disparities that affect the way students are disciplined.

Now that Florida Republicans have passed HB 7093, a bill that allows armed teachers in Florida’s classrooms, the threat of harsh punishment, or worse, will be further intensified for black students.

I proposed implicit bias training to be added to HB 7093 because research has found, for example, it’s why people tend to view black boys as less innocent by the time they reach the age of 10. It’s why black students are three times more likely to face out-of-school suspension or expulsion than their white counterparts for the same types of behaviors. It’s why law enforcement undergoes implicit bias training in addition to firearms training.

Why? Because implicit bias and firearms are a deadly combination.

By passing HB 7093, Florida has all but guaranteed the death of a black student at the hands of an armed teacher. Blood will be on the hands of those who voted for this bill and the governor that signs it into law.

I became a public school teacher to inspire children and educate the next generation of Florida leaders. I know the challenges that come with being a teacher that is underpaid and overworked. As much as I want to keep our students safe, an armed teacher is not the answer to the gun violence epidemic that plagues our schools.

Gov. Ron DeSantis can still veto this dangerous and misguided legislation. Earlier this year, I called on Gov. DeSantis to form a commission to examine ways to prevent gun violence in minority communities throughout Florida. It’s not too late to stop this bill and reevaluate our options for school safety.

Let’s be honest, the push to arm teachers as a solution to school shootings is a blind spot among lawmakers who do not have to navigate the world as a black man.

Just as politicians have come to acknowledge the failed “tough on crime” policies of the 1970s, we must stop HB 7093 before black students become a casualty of the Florida Legislature’s ignorance.

State Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, represents House District 101 in the Florida Legislature.

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