Teachers union raises questions as Florida reminds schools of security rules

Many updates to the 2018 safety law have already taken effect.
SCOTT KEELER   |   TimesMembers of the Florida House debate a bill that would arm teachers in public schools with guns. The bill passed the House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
SCOTT KEELER | TimesMembers of the Florida House debate a bill that would arm teachers in public schools with guns. The bill passed the House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
Published June 10

Can a teacher volunteering as a Florida armed school guardian use his or her own gun in that role? If guardians believe they need more ammunition than the school district or sheriff’s office provides, can they bring their own?

These are but a couple of the many queries the Florida Education Association has begun to raise in a series of social media posts aimed at bringing added attention to the revised school security law (SB 7030) that lawmakers adopted and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed this spring. The group is encouraging members and supporters to pepper officials until the details are clear, as so much is riding on how the programs are implemented.

“Our members have questions, and we are trying to get answers for them,” FEA communications director Sharon Nesvig said.

The Twitter campaign, which is set to run a week, comes on the heels of a Tampa Bay Times story in which a key lawmaker suggested that teachers could be held criminally liable if their actions as guardians fall short of expectation — similar to the charges currently against the Broward County deputy who did not enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High as a shooter killed 17 students and faculty, injuring many others. That issue was not discussed during floor debate on the measure.

It also emerges just days after the school superintendents across Florida received a reminder from the Department of Education that the requirements they face on several security-related matters have been updated.

Most of the SB 7070 provisions took effect in May, with the governor’s signature, and as last summer, districts must work quickly to ensure they meet the mandate before classes resume in August. Some continued to fall short of compliance with the 2018 rules, leading members of the public safety commission to call for a public reporting of exactly who failed to follow the laws and why.

Department officials have made clear in a series of memos to districts how they are expected to conform to the laws, whether dealing with having sufficient numbers of guards, holding an adequate number of active shooter drills or responding to other parts. Some ideas, the department stated, can be implemented immediately, such as keeping doors closed and locked except when in use, and then ensuring they are monitored.

Through its Twitter account, the teachers union expressed frustration that many specifics didn’t get addressed by lawmakers as they discussed and adopted the changes. Bill sponsors frequently stated that local districts would make final decisions on several matters, or that the bill simply did not deal with certain aspects.

As a growing number of districts considers adoption of the guardian program, and all face the changed requirements for school security, the FEA stated, Floridians should have better information about what is really expected.