With numerous questions still unanswered–and some unanswerable questions–the Flagler County School Board is moving forward with gauging interest from school employees and residents in arming civilians ins schools as a presumed addition to the security provided by the Sheriff’s Office’s school resource deputies.
If such a program were to be instituted in Flagler schools, it wouldn’t happen before January 2024 at the very earliest, and likely later than that.
The school board has been debating the issue inconclusively for months. But a rather solid consensus is building between School Board members Colleen Conklin, Cheryl Massaro and Will Furry to move forward–not to establish an armed-civilian program, but to set the table for one. Board member Sally Hunt is the panel’s most skeptical about the idea, and Board member Christy Chong was entirely silent during a 45-minute discussion about the proposal at Tuesday’s workshop.
What the state refers to as the “guardian program” would enable districts either to arm some of their own employees or to hire civilians as armed guards.
In Florida, 3,000 sworn law enforcement officers are assigned to schools, as are 1,384 armed civilians. Of the state’s 67 districts, 46 have an armed-civilian program–20 of them using it as a supplement to law enforcement, 26 of them using armed civilians exclusively. Twenty-three districts have no such program, including Flagler, where so far the board had been resistant.
On Tuesday, the board was clearly more embracing of the program, with but caution, and with innumerable questions yet to be answered. “The consensus that I’m hearing is that yes, we want you to proceed to get more information,” Massaro said, noting that the district would still have to pay for part of the training and the rest of the program. How much is not yet known. “This is going to impact us fiscally just for training and materials. So we can find out what it actually would cover. How much are we responsible? How many guardians are recommended by your team? Like, do we need nine? That’s what we have, or what’s happening with Imagine,” the charter school. “So there’s a lot of questions that we have to figure out.”
This much the board agreed to do: it will prepare a survey to gauge employees’ desire or willingness to be armed. It will set up town hall meetings to gauge public sentiment about it, and to inform the public about the parameters of the district’s program–parameters that have yet to be defined, as with costs. It will then survey the public. Only then will the board again recon sider the issue and make a decision, in light of the gathered data.
Only this is certain at this point: if the district is to have armed civilians on campus, they will only be supplements to the deputies. “This would be a force multiplier, not a replacement, not an elimination of our SRD program,” Conklin said. Conklin is also adamant that what personnel qualify for the program have to have been previous law enforcement officers or veterans.
“Well, I think there’s some parents who feel the exact opposite, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want someone who has has been to Iraq,'” Hunt said. Blind and obsequious pandering in Florida to all things military aside, the mental health and stability of veterans, who take their own lives at significantly higher rates than civilians, is not a minor issue.
Hunt was also concerned about the clarity of the surveys that will go out. “That’s a really big survey, I would want it accompanied with a really very crystal clear look at what the guardian program is and what it isn’t. And I know we wouldn’t have all the details because we’re forming that,” Hunt said.
“It is a big topic. It’s very sensitive,” Superintendent Cathy Mittlestadt said, “and everybody’s going to have various perspectives.” That’s why she proposed the town halls. “We’re happy to facilitate and set that up and bring all the information the facts and then there’s an open discussion and a dialogue that board members can engage with your constituents.” The town halls would precede the public survey.
When Mittlestadt asked for an explicit consensus “that the guardian program is an interest of Flagler school boards members,” she got a yes.
The sheriff’s office would be responsible for training, provising a minimum of 144 hours of training per civilian, likely more. Any training held before next July will not be paid for by the 2023 grant–assuming the state grant will actually be offered again next year. The district’s responsibility will be to ensure that a 29-page grant goes through the Department of Education. The Sheriff’s Office would prepare that application.
Sheriff’s Cmdr. Jen Nawrocki and Tommy Wooleyhan, the district’s safety specialist, briefed the board on the program’s timelines.
“I don’t see it’s possible to put training in the summer months of July 2023,” Wooleyhan said, “that we’re confident to say that we will have guardians in our school at the start of the 2023-2024 school year because of the minimum 144 hours of training that is required.”
There was some eagerness on the board to get started before July 1. Mittelstadt cautioned against starting training before grant funding is secured. “I think there’s too many assumptions occurring here,” Mittelstadt said. If the board decides to go forward, then it’s up to the sheriff to ensure that the grant is in place, “because they’re not going to commit to something” otherwise. The sheriff can’t conduct training in June with funding due after July 1.
But the district did not have the full cost of the program. “We don’t know if we’re going to start small or move big. It’s really at the board’s discretion, and how many people actually qualify after they volunteer and pass all the requirements,” Wooleyhan said.
“The differentiation here is arrestable powers, citation, and employed by the sheriff’s office,” Mittelstadt said. “That is your highest level of experience, qualified experts, if you will, that are providing that safety in our school sites. We have that.”
By going the armed-civilian route, the district would choose not to add to that expertise or quality by paying for more deputies. Rather, it would choose to supplement the deputies with an armed presence that is by definition of lesser quality, abilities and powers than deputies, whether the hire is a separate guard or an existing employee who adds carrying a gun to his or her duties.
“Adding to it would be great,” Furry said.
Missing from the discussion, and in Florida as a whole is one key set of data: whether arming civilians is effective, whether it has demonstrably improved security. The Department of Education isn’t even tracking the specifics of the program in such a way that it would provide baselines for useful analysis. It has no idea how each district implements its program. Its only interest is that districts have a program. Manny Diaz, the state commissioner of education, was encouraging school boards to adopt the program when he spoke at the latest conference of the Florida School Board Association, but the rationale so far has been driven more by feel-good speculation than evidence that such programs make a difference.
But Tuesday’s discussion did contrast with the school board’s previous discussions on the subject in a key regard. With three new board members–Furry, Chong, Hunt–the discussion was less tense, less dogmatic, and driven more by what appeared to be a sincere desire for information rather than for going through motions toward a pre-determined conclusion.
No. This is BS. We didn’t have to worry about this when I went to school because there was an assault weapons ban. The year it ended (thanks Republicans) we had Columbine. Hasn’t stopped. I graduated 1 year before the ban expired and when I went back the following year, they had metal detectors installed. Yes, people kill people but easy access to weapons of war make that killing a whole lot easier. No civilian needs an AR-15. No one. If you can’t hunt without one, you’re a terrible hunter. And don’t say you need one for protection either. Learn how to handle and shoot a gun that doesn’t require spraying of bullets. It’s always white, fragile, small men making up for their inadequacies that own AR-15s. Sure, they’re not the only ones but they make up a majority of the shooters.
I’m sick and tired of seeing gun this, gun that, shot here, dead kids, dead animals, dead women, all by gun violence. Only in America and 3rd world nations is there a gun fetish. It’s sick.
Please Fact Check Me says
We didn’t have to worry about this when I went to school because there was no social media.
The Federal Assault Weapons Ban enacted in 1994 expired in 2004. Columbine was in 1999.
“Weapons of war” include pistols.
95% of AR15s are semi automatic. They are .223 which is a common hunting caliber. AR15 is just a design. That is like saying ban Budwiser because it kills so many people but Bush beer is ok. When I went to school every boy had a pocket knife and there were loaded gunrack in every truck. NO PROBLEMS ! You need to stop focusing on guns and focus on kids.
The issue with the AR15 type semi automatic rifles and semi automatic pistols is the magazine size and speed at which they can be reloaded.
I hunted when I was younger and lived in Ohio. I never had to shoot a deer more than once with my .44 magnum Ruger Super Blackhawk revolver.
If all semi automatic weapons were required to have a fixed (not detachable) magazines of just 6 to 10 cartridges, then the severity of mass shootings would be reduced. It would not prevent mass shootings, but the body count would be lower.
G A says
Two words. Hell NO
Deputies should be the only one’s with a gun on school premises. Just common sense really.
Yep – so they can repeat their non-actions as they did in Uvalde and at Parkland.
Yep! Ours would hide in a heartbeat!
I don’t like this though/idea
Pat Stote says
Old Guy says
Considering potential liability issues alone it’s a no brainer. First determine if more deputies should be assigned to the schools. If the answer is yes then figure out how to pay for it. If something bad (heaven forbid) happens there will be plenty of other law enforcement responding as well.
Mary Fusco says
What a sad state of affairs. My children grew up in upstate NY. There were guns in homes as many people hunted ( we did not). My children all went through 12 years of public school. School doors were always unlocked, resource officers were unheard of. Where are we going as a society if we are reduced to this?
Deborah Coffey says
Absolutely NOT! What kind of educational system do we have when State comes up with a stupid idea?! A very bad one.
Locomotive Breath says
Yeah, no. Hard pass. Pleas require an IQ test before surveys are competed.
Ramone Pierro says
15 no & your 1 yes, what does that say about you
You probably believe Gun Free Zones work…
What does that say about you?
Ban Automatic guns! says
Won’t be any public schools left soon with DeSantis’s new bill he’s pushing!!
He’s doing away with the Teachers Union, they don’t get any respect, parent support or pay, why do you need guns?
Soon there will be no more public schools in America with these crazy Republicans in office! All Nut Jobs.
As a retired law enforcement officer, I need to give a warning in the strongest possible way NOT to let anyone other than trained and experienced deputies and officers have firearms inside schools. There are numerous reasons why this is just an insane idea.
1) Teachers have enough problems just trying to keep order and teach. The vast majority of them want no part of being additionally responsible for acting as first responders or using weapons.
2) The only logical reason why non-law enforcement personnel are being proposed for these assignments in schools is because they can either be unpaid volunteers or low paid, minimally trained/equipped to save money. If you ask parents if their children’s lives are not worth spending the required money to keep uniformed law enforcement personnel in schools, I’m sure every single one of them would say their children’s lives ARE worth the expense.
3) School shooting incidents are chaotic enough without law enforcement having to also worry about civilians with guns in the school and not knowing when they see someone with a gun if they are a good guy or a bad guy. That puts cops in an impossible situation and increases the possibility of innocent people being shot.
There is no substitute for having a trained, experienced law enforcement presence in our schools. The best way to both help protect everyone on school property, and also to both minimize the potential for mass school shootings and get an immediate law enforcement response to incidents on campus is to spend the money required to ensure that there are cops assigned to the schools, NOT civilians!
You have forgotten the most important item; those cops need to be willing to take action. At Parkland the officer ran and hid, at Uvalde hundreds stood around doing nothing while kids were being killed. Spending more more will not strengthen the spine of those cowards who failed to do their jobs.
You are absolutely right, and it was unforgivable for those who failed in their most basic responsibility to protect the lives of the school students who were under attack in both the Uvalde and Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings. But you have to remember that those failures, besides being an abomination, are in stark contrast to the too numerous to count heroic actions of ethical, determined officers throughout the U.S. who run toward danger every day and put their own lives on the line in order to save others. I just did a quick google search and found out that since the Columbine high school massacre in 1999, we have had 304 more fatal school shootings to date. How many other times have you heard of the inaction of officers who responded to the hundreds of school shootings in the U.S. since Columbine? You don’t hear of incidents like what happened at Uvalde and Parkland because it is incredibly rare and unprecedented for law enforcement failures such as what occurred on those two school shootings, and I hope we never hear of such failures within law enforcement again.
Skibum: I’m with you. This absurd idea is like, no not like, it is, putting a Zimmerman in every classroom. This is clearly a situation where those in charge have no idea what to do, so throw something out there, preferably political, and see what sticks.
There is something wrong with our system when there are weakened individuals shooting children. That illness should be researched and taken seriously, and not as “this individual” but as what is wrong with our society that these individuals feel pushed to this reaction to daily life that they cannot handle.
When I was in school, many, many moons ago, we never thought of bullying, or even knew what it was. There was the class clown, and the annoying kid who kicked your chair, but that was really about the extent of it. Something changed. We need to know exactly what the change was, and focus on correcting that.
Meanwhile, sadly, we need to treat schools as lock down areas with detection devices. Crazy, I know, but we are in crazy times, and the Marjorie Taylor Greens, and like fools, are not helping the situation showing off with automatic, or semiautomatic, machine guns. There are plenty of politicians, with nobody home, exasperating the problem, and not helping to solve it.
@Skibum … bless you for being a voice of reason, from an LEO perspective!
Most LEO get a few hours of firearm training per year.
To think that a private company couldn’t offer better training than a local academy is foolish.
Either way… I bet that a shooter would just go pick a different place where someone won’t be sending lead back their way which is why “gun free zones” are such popular places for mass shootings.
Lee Shaffer says
We heard over and over again that law enforcement has to shoot perpetrators multiple times because so few of their shots hit their targets. These are people highly trained to use their weapon, yet the majority of their shots miss their target. Now, the proposal is to arm and train someone with a desire to teach to kill instead. Of course, any killer will target a teacher first, before they can get their gun. What could go wrong? Of course, it is a bad idea. Ban assault rifles and the ammunition for them instead.
David S. says
No damn way
Michael Cocchiola says
Not only no, but HELL NO!
The last thing we need is a poorly trained civilian firing a Glock into a crowded hallway or classroom. In a study by the Daigle Law Group in 2018, researchers analyzed 149 real-life officer initiated shootings recorded over a 15-year period by Dallas (TX) PD. In nearly half of these encounters, officers firing at a single suspect delivered “complete inaccuracy.” That is, they missed the target entirely.
“In 15 incidents, the total number of rounds fired could not be determined. But in the 134 cases where researchers could establish that figure, they calculated the hit rate, “incredibly,” at merely 35%. In other words, more than six out of 10 rounds fired were misses.”
Where do the missed .40 caliber rounds go? Imagine a frightened staff and student body running around in slick hallways with tiled walls and floors. Then imagine multiple shots reverberating off walls and floors until they hit something soft… like a student.
This is a very bad idea. The money should be spent hardening entry points.
“Adding to it would be great,” Furry said. Has he ever seen the size and strength of our “kids” in high school? They can and would easily, if so motivated, overtake a civilian of any stature and take that gun away and use it against whomever is in their way. For this reason alone this is an insane idea. Having fully trained law enforcement adults armed in the schools is almost as bad. Armed individuals of any ilk do not add any value to the education of our youth. It seems to me that it is a reflection that we cannot truly educate our children and prepare them for a productive meaningful adulthood.
If this go through. I wonder what motives would an angry person have while legally having a gun at school. What people will be targeted. Of course I’m concerned about all the school persons but more concerned about the people of color. This idea isn’t good. Time will tell what will happen.