Following the Parkland school shooting, the board is considering a range of security policies ranging from hiring new counselors to allowing selected staff to carry firearms on campus.
Allie Pritchett, Viking Fusion Executive Director
Just a week after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, killing 17, the Floyd County Board of Education held a meeting Tuesday morning to discuss strengthening security measures for the county schools. Many suggested increased camera surveillance, keeping external doors locked at all times, hiring more counselors and school resource officers and allowing board-selected educators to keep firearms in the classroom.
In Florida, firearms are not allowed on school grounds. However, as a reaction to the Parkland shooting, the Senate Judiciary Committee proposed a bill allowing designated staff to carry firearms on public school campuses. As of now, ideas regarding firearms in Floyd County schools are just that, ideas.
“There are a lot of other things we can put in place as a board before we ever get that far,” said Dr. Tony Daniel, Vice Chairman of the Floyd County Board of Education. “Our number one concern is protecting students, faculty, staff and student teachers.”
At the board meeting, the board’s attorney, King Askew, read the 2014 House Bill 60 or the “Safe Carry Protection Act” that allows citizens, with a legal carry permit, to carry or possess a gun at a K-12 school or on school property. This bill also states:
- There are exceptions to the prohibition of firearms on school ground, ranging from types of “weaponry” like baseball bats and hockey sticks, to personnel allowed to carry firearms, like police officers and those picking their children up from school with a carry permit. In this case, they must keep their firearms stored in a locked compartment in the car.
- The school board can authorize certain school staff to anonymously carry on campus, but the board must have a written statement and policy in place before this authorization.
- Those authorized must go through training on judgment pistol shooting, marksmanship and a review of the current laws on force for self-defense and the defense of others.
- Anyone with a background in mental health will be excluded from being authorized.
- If authorized has a concealed carry license, the firearm must be kept on the person at all times, not in a purse, briefcase or large bag.
- The firearm must be sustained in a lock box or some form that cannot be easily accessed by students.
- The board is required to conduct an annual criminal history background check on those selected.
Askew said his problem lies in the vagueness of the level of training required for the authorized. The statute simply states, “the training shall at a minimum include training on judgment pistol shooting, marksmanship and a review of current laws…the local board of education training policy may substitute for certain training requirements.”
The Georgia Public Safety Training Center said the Basic Mandate Law Enforcement program is an 11-week program and consists of 408 hours of “rigorous training that includes classroom-based lecture and practical skills building sessions.” The tuition and fees for this type of training also cost roughly $3,793, according to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. This means accurate and thorough training of school staff could potentially take months and thousands of dollars if decided upon by the board.
“I don’t want to try to solve one problem and create five other problems,” Daniel said about firearms on campus.
The board is still in the early stages of gathering information about the options for securing schools and does not have a deadline for a policy decision. The potential of firearms on campus raised concerns with one Berry College student teacher.
“I think bringing guns into schools is unsafe and is literally bringing the external issue of school shootings into the school,” said a Berry student teacher, who asked to remain unidentified for fear of retribution. “They would also have to provide training for substitutes and student teachers. Without this training, they would not know how to protect their students.”
At the board meeting, some suggested giving student teachers a greater role within the schools in a mentorship program. The school board said apart from increasing security, an important aspect of creating a safer environment in schools is building deeper relationships between students, teachers and staff. This mentorship program would encourage student teachers and volunteers to develop one-on-one relationships with students.
“The more mentoring we can have, the more relationship-oriented we can be with the students,” Daniel said. “Trying to create instances, policies, procedures and relationships as a front-line defense is very effective, and that is what we hope to do at this time.”
The next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6 at 6 p.m.