An appeals court Friday sided with a Sumter County high-school teacher who challenged a school-district policy that barred him from having a gun in his car on campus.
A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal overturned a circuit judge’s ruling that Jonathan Forrester was not “adversely affected” by the policy. State law generally prevents people from carrying guns on school grounds. But the law has exceptions, including allowing people to have guns in cars if the firearms are secured. However, school districts can approve policies that prevent guns in campus parking lots.
The Sumter County school district enacted such a policy, according to the ruling. Forrester wanted to have a gun in his car but was told he would face discipline if he violated the policy. Forrester contended that the policy did not comply with state law and filed a lawsuit. A circuit judge agreed that the policy was flawed, but said Forrester did not meet a test of being “adversely affected” to maintain the lawsuit.
But the appeals court disagreed.
“The fact that Forrester conformed his conduct to the school board’s policy to avoid termination and potential criminal penalties does not undermine the fact that Forrester was adversely affected or that this adverse effect was due to the school board’s enforcement of the policy,” said the 11-page ruling, written by Judge Meredith Sasso and joined by Judges Dan Traver and Michelle Naberhaus. “Indeed, the threatened discipline here was not a speculative threat or an unsubstantiated fear but instead due to the school board’s unequivocal intent to enforce the policy which was clearly, and in concrete terms, communicated to Forrester.”