TAMPA — They came by the hundreds when Lenny Bogdanos taught gun safety to Pinellas County public school teachers.
Now Hillsborough County schoolteachers are signing up for a similar class on March 30.
Bogdanos, who runs a security company in Clearwater and works as a bodyguard, insisted, "I'm not advocating for educators to have guns."
But clearly he's responding to a number of scenarios now under discussion in the Legislature, said April Griffin, chairwoman of the Hillsborough School Board.
"This, to me, is a ludicrous conversation to have," she said. "We need to be talking about less guns in the schools and not more."
Bogdanos' company, International Executive Protection, is waiving its customary $75 class fee to teachers with valid school identification.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a lodge in Safety Harbor, they'll learn about the laws that govern concealed carry permits and how to differentiate between different kinds of guns and how to handle them. They'll get to fire guns too, Bogdanos said.
Bogdanos said the course meets the requirements for those who want state carry permits. He has room for 100 participants, he said.
After the class for Pinellas teachers, he said he received a flood of requests from those in Hillsborough. "Word spread so much, it went viral."
Teachers are curious, he said. They may or may not choose to bring their weapons to school, and the law might never allow it.
But, he said, "we do want them to be better informed and trained."
Bills introduced in this year's session include one that would allow school districts to levy taxes to pay for security upgrades and one that would let superintendents and principals designate school employees to carry concealed weapons.
In Hillsborough, a consultant is working with district officials to design a comprehensive security plan. An early attempt to place armed officers in all of the district's schools was voted down by the School Board in January.
Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, has been watching the situation intently.
"We certainly do have concerns about the wholesale arming of teachers," he said.
He contends that trained resource officers, who represent a collaboration between law enforcement and education, are the optimal model if schools feel that they need protection.
But he is troubled by efforts to find more economical solutions, such as contracting with security firms through competitive bidding.
"Sometimes, you get what you pay for," he said.
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or email@example.com.