[Opinion Editorial by Rep. Shevrin Jones]
As a former educator in Broward Public Schools and state lawmaker who represents communities in South Florida, I am horrified by some of the legislation moving through Tallahassee this legislative session.
This week, the Florida Legislature is considering HB 7093, a bill set to allow teachers with concealed carry permits to bring guns on school property.
The Aaron Feis Guardian Program allows law enforcement around the state to train guardians to patrol our schools and confront active shooters with lethal force who may target a campus.
This program was created in response to the February 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
After the tragedy in Parkland, Donald Trump and elected officials in the pocket of the NRA called for the arming of teachers as a means to protect our students from gun violence. Never mind the fact that many of our teachers are so woefully underfunded they have to pay for classroom supplies out of their own salary.
Instead of paying fair wages and investing in our kids’ educations, Trump and his allies wanted to solve the problem of too many guns by adding more guns to the equation. Trump even called for teachers to receive bonuses for packing heat in the classroom.
How about just paying them a salary that matches the massive responsibility they hold to shaping young minds?
What’s more, we hear every day about the disproportionate rate of expulsion and punishment for African-American students as opposed to their white counterparts. The school to prison pipeline, as it has been called, means that African Americans are more likely to be put on a path by their educators to head to prison rather than college or a fruitful career.
So many of our teachers do an admirable job educating our students. But there is a definite reality that needs to be confronted in education just as much as it needs to be confronted in every other segment of society — implicit bias.
Implicit bias means that we subconsciously associate black and brown bodies with criminality, with violence, or with dangerousness.
We are conditioned from a young age to implicitly have this bias built on stereotypes and narratives rather than on facts and reality. It is no wonder why black and brown students are so much more likely to be expelled — they are treated from the minute they walk into school with suspicion. Any slip up could mean the end of their educational career.
Having a teacher with a gun makes it all the more likely that these biases won’t just mean the expulsion of a black student, but the death of one. Teachers should not have access to lethal force in the classroom. Period.
Teachers should not be responsible for carrying weapons and patrolling the campuses of students they are tasked with educating. We already ask so much of our teachers and give them so little in return.
The idea of now saddling them with the responsibility of protecting their students with lethal force is unacceptable. Protecting our students is all our responsibility, including the Legislature’s.
Therefore, we need to seriously consider and pass legislation aimed at curbing gun violence — not more laws that will just add to the fear within our schools and public places.
I call on all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in opposing this bill.