JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An appeals court says armed school guardians can be allowed on school campuses, striking down a challenge pushed by Duval County parents. The move to allow school safety assistants was part of sweeping legislation following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
A group of parents sued the school district saying they were actually putting more people in danger. A Duval County judge disagreed, and now the appeals court has upheld that ruling.
This week marks three years since a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 people and injuring several others. The push for justice also came with an emphasis on school safety.
That shooting led several school districts, including Duval County Public Schools, to create the school guardian program. Some argued that having armed guardians would cause more harm than good. Protestors to the program pointed to a Florida law prohibiting people other than law enforcement from being armed on school campuses.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court has now weighed in. The panel detailed changes made by lawmakers that aimed to create an exception from that law for school guardians. One judge wrote, saying the “Legislature specifically declared school guardians to be acting in a law enforcement capacity when responding to an active assailant emergency.” She also cited requirements for the guardians, including “...many hours of firearms training and possessing a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Perhaps the most persuasive of the requirements is that a school guardian must have ongoing weapons inspections by the sheriff.”
Duval County residents were very opinionated about the program when it was first suggested. Opponents said it could lead to scenarios where gun-related accidents could happen. People who supported the program said guardians were needed to make it easier to respond to an active shooter.