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SPLC Action Fund: Florida bill seeking to arm teachers with guns jeopardizes school safety

The Florida Senate today approved Senate Bill 7030, which seeks to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom and would require schools to report students to law enforcement for normal adolescent behavior that is interpreted as a “threat."

The so-called “school safety bill,” approved with only Republicans voting in favor, would make children in public schools less safe and infringe on students’ privacy.

The Florida Senate defied the will of the people of Florida when it approved the bill. The Senate passed this legislation even though parents, teachers and voters across the state adamantly oppose it. Republican senators callously ignored even the survivors of the Parkland massacre who showed up in the Capitol a few weeks ago with hundreds of children to protest this bill.

There is no reason to arm our teachers and bring guns into our children’s classrooms. It will not make our schools safer. As the accidental shooting and gun incidents in schools around the country have already proven, this bill will put our children in greater danger.

The Senate also has repeatedly rejected a common-sense amendment that would allow parents to opt their child out of any class taught by a teacher with a gun. Our Legislature likes to talk about “school choice,” but apparently choice doesn’t include allowing our parents to say they don’t want their children around a dangerous firearm.

It is also important to understand that that there are issues with this bill beyond the attempt to arm teachers. It puts our children under constant surveillance, infringes on their privacy rights, chills their free speech and associations, and increases their risk of being caught up in the criminal justice system.

These ill-advised provisions are likely to reduce students’ engagement with their schools, discourage students from seeking mental health care and create an atmosphere of distrust that will keep them from reporting real concerns, and, ultimately, will make our schools less safe.

The legislation does provide new funding for mental health in schools. While on its face, this seems to be a step in the right direction, legislators haven’t been clear on how the proposed funding integrates into Florida’s existing state and federal obligations. It also does not establish an accountability system for this use of limited taxpayer dollars.

Our students, parents and educators deserve better. We call on the House to reject this legislation, but, if the House also fails to follow the will of the voters, then we call on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto this bad legislation.

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