The Florida Department of Education was unable to confirm an independent survey that found seven of the state’s 67 school districts have approved or would consider arming classroom teachers under a controversial school “guardian” program.
Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said the state agency has not collected information from school districts on whether they plan to allow classroom teachers to participate in the guardian program, which authorizes specially trained school personnel to bring guns to schools.
A new school safety law, approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature this spring and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, expanded the guardian program to allow classroom teachers to volunteer to participate in the program and carry guns on school grounds.
A survey of school officials conducted by The Wall Street Journal found that only seven of Florida’s 67 school districts have approved or would consider allowing teachers to participate in the program. Nearly all of the school districts --- Bay, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Okeechobee, Putnam and Suwanee --- open to allowing specially trained teachers with guns are in rural counties. When asked if the survey’s results were consistent with data collected by the Florida Department of Education, Etters said the agency does not track the information.
“The Wall Street Journal conducted that survey independently,” Etters told The News Service of Florida in an email. “As you know, we currently do not have a list of districts choosing to allow teachers to participate in the guardian program.” Etters told the News Service on July 22 that the agency only collected information about school districts that are participating in the guardian program as a whole. Allowing classroom teachers to participate in the program is a “decision made locally,” Etters said.
On July 25, Etters said the education department would begin tracking whether school districts had decided to allow teachers to participate in the guardian program in the future, through “the grant application for funding in coming years.”
As of Thursday, the agency had yet to begin collecting the information. Under the guardian program, school districts that participate are eligible for grant money to help sheriffs conduct training for school personnel.