Florida Commission Votes to Arm Teachers
Sanity in response to the Parkland atrocity may yet prevail in South Florida.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission last week voted 13-1 in favor of allowing teachers who are willing to undergo background checks and training to carry concealed weapons on school campuses. The measure aims to prevent a recurrence of the massacre that killed 17 people last Feb. 14. The move would be a step beyond the current guardian program that allows school systems to arm security guards, administrators, or librarians, and it would require approval by the state legislature.
“We have to give people a fighting chance. We have to give them an opportunity to protect themselves,” said Pinellas County Sheriff and commission chairman Bob Gualtieri. Polk County Sheriff and commission member Grady Judd agreed, and further illumined why. “In the ideal world, we shouldn’t need anyone on campus with a gun, but that’s not the world we live in today,” he said. “One’s not enough. Two’s not enough. We need multiple people in order to protect the children.”
Unfortunately, dealing with the world we live in today is not American Left’s strong suit. Florida’s teachers union and PTA have voiced their opposition to such a measure, insisting teachers are hired to educate, not be law enforcement officers. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), whose district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, echoed their assertions. “Teachers want to teach, not be armed for combat in their classrooms,” he stated. “Law enforcement cannot push their responsibilities to make our communities safer on to civilians that should be focused on educating their students.”
To be fair, Deutch’s argument has one legitimate aspect to it: The 407-page preliminary report addressed the massive failures by multiple law enforcement officers from Sheriff Scott Israel’s department to respond appropriately to the atrocity. It noted that Israel’s active-shooter policy, which states that officers “may” confront shooters as opposed to “shall” confront them, was a recipe for disaster.
“‘May’ gave them the out not to enter,” Judd explained. “They decided to be cowards instead of heroes.”
Scott Peterson, the lone armed deputy on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the atrocity occurred, tried to exploit that policy. In attempting to get a lawsuit filed against him by the family of murder victim Meadow Pollack dismissed, he asked Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning to rule that he had “no legal duty” to protect teachers and students.
Thankfully, Henning wasn’t buying it. In ruling against Peterson, Henning asserted that a school security guard has the “obligation to act reasonably.” She also found that Peterson was not protected by “sovereign immunity,” which prevents litigation from being filed against public employees based on their official conduct.
Peterson’s attorney, Michael Piper, has promised to appeal the decision. If he is unsuccessful, perhaps Pollack’s family will be able to attach some portion of Peterson’s $8,700 per month pension. The one the 55-year-old deputy began collecting after being initially suspended but ultimately allowed to resign and retire on Feb. 22 — one week after the shooting.
Sheriff Israel, who asserted shortly after the tragedy that he had provided “amazing leadership” to his department, remains as defiant as ever. “I have done nothing that would warrant my resignation and have absolutely no intentions of resigning,” he said in response to the report. “I am committed to BSO [Broward County Sheriff’s Office] and the safety of Broward County. I will remain sheriff for so long as the voters of Broward County want to have me.”
Maybe, maybe not. Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, who will be sworn in Jan. 8, repeatedly called for Israel’s removal during his campaign. Now, he sounds more like a politician, insisting he wants to see the final report and “if there’s corrective action that needs to be taken, then we can take corrective action.” Chairman Gualtieri insisted nothing Israel did could be construed as “malfeasance or misfeasance.” “He had some personnel that failed,” Gualtieri said. “Any law enforcement organization is going to have people that fail. And just because individuals fail doesn’t mean that the leader of the organization is a failure.”
Really? The report notes there were seven deputies who heard shots fired and failed to act, and it characterizes their conduct as “unacceptable and contrary to accepted protocol under which the deputies should have immediately moved towards the gunshots to confront the shooter.” As for organizational leadership, the report states there was “abundant confusion over the location of the command post and the role of the staging area,” which “stemmed from an absence of command and control and an ineffective radio system.” Nonetheless, it recommends that the BSO conduct an internal investigation into the incident.
An internal investigation? Shortly after the shooting, Israel stated his department had been contacted 23 times regarding the alleged murderer and his family. Records showed at least 45 calls were made between 2008 to 2017. When confronted about Peterson’s failures? “I gave him a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training. If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility,” Israel stated. Moreover, Israel turned his office into an apparent patronage program, hiring six community affairs employees with salaries totaling $388,729, “from the ranks of his political supporters, building a community outreach wing his critics say doubles as a re-election team,” the Sun-Sentinel reported … in 2016.
Commissioner Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son, Alex, was killed at the school, cast the lone vote against the motion. He would rather see the state hire police officers for campuses and allow non-teaching staff to carry guns. Allowing teachers to be armed “creates a host of problems,” he insisted.
Problems worse than the mass killer having the ability to reload five times?
Efforts are already afoot to undermine the commission’s recommendations. Duval County’s decision to put armed “school safety assistants” in its elementary schools was met with a lawsuit filed by filed by seven unnamed families and the League of Women Voters of Florida. According to the suit, they prefer an approach “designating unarmed guardians whose job would include implementing key elements of the consensus approach to school safety recommended by experts in the field.”
Unarmed guardians? How many victims who might otherwise be saved must be sacrificed to satisfy inane, anti-gun sensibilities?
The commission’s final report will be presented to Gov. DeSantis and the state legislature by Jan. 1. And in a one-two punch sure to outrage those who blame guns for everything, President Donald Trump’s commission on school safety has recommended revoking the Obama administration’s loathsome federal guidelines that directed schools to punish minority students at lesser rates, irrespective of the frequency of their misbehavior. That policy precipitated Broward’s “diversionary” PROMISE program that intentionally kept minority students out of the criminal justice system by ignoring certain crimes. County administrators and school superintendents, who directed cops to stop arresting such students, lauded the resultant “reduction” in crime rates.
Without that policy in place, the murderous psychopath who evinced highly troublesome behavior leading to expulsion would have likely been prevented from buying a gun. The rest is history — and reprehensibly politicized tragedy.