Will teachers who’ve gotten violent with students get to pack heat at schools?
A fifth grade teacher in Collier County allegedly screamed “I’ll get a (expletive) gun and shoot her” at another staff member in front of deputies in a school parking lot in 2014.
The teacher, who apparently lost his cool after bumping into another teacher’s car, was disciplined by the Florida Department of Education but did not lose his license.
WINK News reviewed dozens of educator misconduct and discipline reports filed by the Lee and Collier county school districts from 2012 to 2017 and found 68 incidents of teachers accused of being aggressive and violent.
Reports relevant to Charlotte County schools were heavily redacted and could not be analyzed. The research was in no way comprehensive or a complete look at exactly how many educators have had misconduct reports filed and discipline issued for this type of behavior.
Other examples include an incident involving a Lee County assistant principal that alleges she “inappropriately disciplined” a first grader and bruised the child’s arm in 2015.
Another Lee County teacher was accused of slapping students and hitting others in the genitals in 2013.
Both of these teachers were disciplined, but still have licenses to teach in Florida.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act [SB 7026], signed into law by Governor Rick Scott allows for some educators to act as guardians at schools and carry weapons. The law does not specifically mention taking into consideration prior educator misconduct.
Named for Aaron Feis, a coach killed in the February 14, massacre in Parkland, the armed guardian program is optional and voluntary. It does not allow teachers who are exclusively classroom teachers to carry firearms unless they have a military or law enforcement background.
The program also calls for specific training and psychological evaluations.
“I would think districts would have the common sense to consider [past misconduct],” said Mark Castellano, president of the Teacher’s Association of Lee County, a union group for educators.
Castellano said it’s inevitable that teachers will lose their cool given rising stress and pressures in the classroom, and questioned whether or not adding firearms to the mix was a good idea.
The Florida Education Association, a statewide teacher’s union, strongly opposed the portion of the SB 7026 that allows arming educators and has asked the Scott to veto the funds dedicated to the guardian program.
No school districts in Southwest Florida have committed to taking part in the guardian program.
The Desoto County School board has already voted unanimously against participating in the program, according to Superintendent of Schools Adrian Cline.
Charlotte County schools superintendent plans to ask the board to vote against the idea. Both Lee and Collier counties are still taking everything into consideration.
No one from the Hendry County school district could be reached for comment during their spring break. Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden has said he’d like to train volunteer school staff to carry guns at schools, but the school board is still reviewing that idea.