Monday, December 11, 2017
Education

Panel debates guns on campus, but educators agree relating to students is key

TAMPA — Principal Bill Bond still remembers when a 14-year-old boy strode into Heath High School in Paducah, Ky., pulled out a .22-caliber handgun and opened fire on a prayer group.

"I've experienced a school shooting," he said Friday, recalling the 1997 attack during a panel discussion for Florida school principals. "I've taken the gun away from the kid that's been killing kids. I've been to many schools where this happens, but I've been to plenty of schools where this did not happen."

The session on school safety was part of the Florida Association of School Administrators' summer conference at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.

Other panelists included longtime school resource officer Jamie Meeks, Tampa FBI agent Steven Burdelski, state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and state Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee — a former high school principal himself.

Steube said he has been focused on the issue of school safety since the shooting last year in Newtown, Conn.

"How do we have an armed, trained response in case — God forbid — this was to happen in Florida?" Steube asked.

His answer: Arm principals with the resources to safely allow teachers to have guns in schools.

Steube sponsored legislation this year that would have required an armed officer in every Florida school, unless the principal designates another teacher or administrator to take the necessary training to carry a weapon. The bill passed in the House, but failed in the Senate.

Montford said that Steube will be tweaking the bill and reintroducing it next session.

Arming teachers continues to be a controversial issue, as evidenced at the FASA conference, where principals were split on the best way to keep schools safe.

"If you give teachers guns, the issue of George Zimmerman will look minute compared to the number of students accidentally shot," Bond said.

Bond said teachers have enough on their plates without being expected to safely carry a weapon in class.

"Is a football coach the best teacher he can possibly be during football season? No," Bond said. "If you're going to be armed and take that responsibility of carrying that gun with you, that has to be your first thought."

Other panelists pointed to pre-Newtown incidents as examples of how law enforcement officials have changed their approach when responding to an active shooter. At the Columbine shooting in Colorado, for example, Meeks said officers waited outside the school until SWAT and other backup arrived.

"Now it's, 'we move,' " Burdelski said. "Typically it's from as little as one officer; some agencies want four to go in there."

Ultimately, the educators agreed, the biggest thing teachers can do to keep schools safe is to serve as a "trusted adult" for students who may be at risk for violent behavior. That kind of proactive mentality can have other unexpected benefits, Bond said.

"After the shooting at our school, for the next three years we didn't mention test scores once," he said. "Every year for three years after the shooting, test scores went up."

Bond credits the school for concentrating on students' needs after the tragedy and cultivating relationships with students instead of teaching to a test.

"The reason we got in this business," he said, "is to get involved with kids' lives."

Charles Scudder can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3111.

Comments
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot in her stomac...
Published: 12/08/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17
Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Hillsborough County’s public school teachers are horn-honking, voice-raising, sign-waving, foot-stomping mad, and I can’t blame them. They are paying for a problem they didn’t create. About one-third of the workforce was expecting to receive a $4,000...
Published: 12/07/17
In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

SPRING HILL — On a small wooden dock at the Cross Bar Ranch, Cynthia Brinker gingerly pokes through the trappings in her fishing net, plucking out a tiny creature to examine close up. "What the heck is this?" the Weightman Middle School studen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

BROOKSVILLE — For just a year and a half, Steve Crognale has been the principal at the Endeavor and Discovery Academies. But now, he’s been named the Hernando School District Principal of the Year for 2018. Endeavor serves students, most of them hig...
Published: 12/06/17
Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

TAMPA — The second Hillsborough County School Board meeting in less than a month took place Tuesday against a backdrop of honking car horns, cheering teachers and audience members moving through the room in shifts.Dressed in blue union-issued T-shirt...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey is skilled at calming first-day-of-school jitters. But this school year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every weekday with a knot in her stomach.It’s been there ever since th...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Finalists were announced Tuesday for Hillsborough County Teacher of the year and other honors.Winners will be announced at a banquet on Jan. 16.The finalists for teacher of the year are: Jennifer Jackson, seventh grade science, Stewart Middle; Alexa ...
Published: 12/05/17
High school start times: Could they be a talking point in the 2018 Pinellas election?

High school start times: Could they be a talking point in the 2018 Pinellas election?

It’s been years since the Pinellas County School Board addressed high school start times.But if the issue isn’t resolved in the next few months, it could fall to voters as they decide on who should fill four out of seven School Board seats up grabs i...
Published: 12/05/17