Commission OKs recommendation to arm teachers in Florida
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The commission investigating a shooting massacre at a Florida high school unanimously approved its initial findings and recommendations Wednesday, including a controversial proposal that teachers who volunteer and undergo training be allowed to carry guns.
The 15-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s 446-page report details what members believe happened before, during, and after the Feb. 14, 2017, shooting attack that left 14 students and three staff members dead and 17 wounded.
The report, which the commission sent to Governor Rick Scott, incoming Governor Ron DeSantis, and the Legislature, is also critical of the Broward County sheriff’s deputies who failed to confront suspect Nikolas Cruz, and of Sheriff Scott Israel, whose office did not at the time have a policy requiring them to rush the three-story freshman building where the shooting happened. Israel’s critics hope the report will result in DeSantis suspending Israel shortly after the new governor takes office Tuesday.
Israel has said that he has done nothing to warrant his removal.
The report also details failures in the county school district’s security program that members believe allowed Cruz, a former student known to have serious emotional and behavioral problems, to enter campus while carrying an
AR-15 semiautomatic rifle in a bag.
Even since the shooting, not all Florida school districts and campuses have been taking security seriously, the report says, noting that several districts have been slow to complete mandated reviews of their safety plans and procedures.
‘‘Safety and security accountability is lacking in schools, and that accountability is paramount for effective change if we expect a different result in the future than what occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas,’’ the report says.
State law should be changed to allow teachers who pass an intense training program and background check to carry concealed weapons on campus, the report says. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the panel’s chairman, argued last month for the change, saying teachers are often the ones who have the best chance to stop a school shooting quickly. Under a law passed after the shooting, districts can elect to arm nonclassroom employees such as principals, other administrators, custodians, and librarians who undergo training. The only teachers allowed to arm themselves are current or former police officers, active military members, or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructors. Thirteen of the state’s 67 districts arm nonteaching employees, mostly in rural parts of the state. The state teachers union and PTA oppose the proposal to arm teachers. They argue that adding more armed people will make campuses more dangerous and say teachers should not also be acting as armed guards.