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Are Florida Teachers With Guns a Threat to Black Students?

Image: Are Florida Teachers With Guns a Threat to Black Students?
Florida Rep. Jared Even Moskowitz, right, pulls in Sen. Oscar Braynon, left, Rep. Bobby DuBose, and Sen. Gary Farmer for a private room negotiation in the Senate chamber prior to debate on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Student Safety Act at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, March 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

Wednesday, 07 Mar 2018 10:08 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The Florida Senate, on a very close 20-18 vote, has passed landmark school safety legislation — the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act — named after the Parkland, Florida, school where 17 people were killed three weeks ago.

Although basic classroom teachers would not be allowed to carry weapons, the far reaching bill allows certain school personnel, including teachers who don’t teach exclusively in the classroom, such as coaches, and others to be able to carry firearms.

The Florida Legislative Black Caucus opposed allowing teachers to carry weapons because minority students would be in jeopardy.

To the best of my knowledge, not one of the black or brown children killed by guns in Florida and around the nation have been at the hands of a school teacher, employee, or administrator!

Many were caught in the crossfire of street gun battles between gangs battling over drugs and territory on the way to or from school, playing in their own yard, or even relaxing with family in their homes!

As if that ever-present fear of black and brown parents were not enough, the Caucus warned them they had even more to worry about if teachers and/or other school personnel were armed.

It argued that arming teachers would posed an additional danger to the safety of black and minority students. They were implicitly saying that it would lead to the killing of black and brown students by school officials.

Listening to Caucus Chairman Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Florida Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Garden, that was the obvious conclusion.

At a Caucus press conference, Thurston said that minority students are “more disproportionately disciplined than any other students” and Braynon went on to describe the dismal picture of how minority students are treated and perceived in Florida schools.

“Minority kids are seen as problems, and they’re the ones who are in the school-to-prison pipeline. They are the ones who overwhelming get suspended and now you’re saying these kids are going to be subject to teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers, janitors, that might be armed?

He called the then so-called “School Marshal” plan a “recipe for disaster.”

That sure sounds like telling black and Hispanic parents that a teacher — or any school employee with a weapon — might just shoot their belligerent, unruly, misbehaving or threatening child!

As noted above, in some areas of the country and state, including parts of Miami-Dade County, many parents fear that the life of their child may be ended by criminals and thugs — not teachers or school employees. In fact, to many parents and students, schools and teachers are sanctuaries!

Are things so bad in Florida schools that black and Hispanic children’s lives might be in danger if teachers, coaches, or other personnel carry weapons?

Is this the new Democratic narrative in the school safety and gun debate — racist fears?

What an insult to those teachers and personnel!

Has the Florida Teachers Association offered any comment or thoughts on such accusatory rhetoric — or do they agree?

What is going on in Florida schools to prompt such fright? Is there any basis for such concerns?

Thurston and Braynon, who are very committed and dedicated, have exposed some very real and disturbing racial disparities in Florida schools.

As noted in the Miami Herald, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Education for the 2015-2016 schoolyear, the most recent year available, black students were more likely to be disciplined than whites.

On suspensions, the report states that blacks made up 23 percent of students but constituted 43 percent of all out-of-school suspensions and 38 percent of in-school suspensions.

In Leon County, home to the state Capital of Tallahassee, blacks were suspended at 4.4 times the rate of white students even though the student populations were nearly equal.

In Broward County, home of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the scene of the Parkland massacre, black students accounted for a whopping 71 percent of out-of-school and 62 percent of in-school suspensions.

So what’s the problem? There are many questions for all Florida lawmakers — not just the Caucus:

  • Why are these black students being suspended at such high rates?
  • Why are they falling through the cracks?
  • Are they troubled bad apples who could pose a danger to other students and school personnel as did Nikolas Cruz?
  • Would teachers have the protection of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law if under a personal attack from a rebellious student?
  • Or, would they only be allowed to use their firearm in the “prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises” as stated in the Senate bill?

The question for the seven black Senators who voted against the bill is who would protect black and brown students in an active shooter situation?

There are many valid arguments for not arming our teachers and school personnel, but the fear of them killing black or brown students is not one of them!

Let’s see how the Florida House and the Congress deals with the issue in the days and weeks ahead.

Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political, and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as in the Reagan presidential campaigns. He is a former co-owner of WTVT-TV in Tampa and former president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters. Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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The Florida Senate, on a very close 20-18 vote, has passed landmark school safety legislation — the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act — named after the Parkland, Florida, school where 17 people were killed three weeks ago.
florida, parkland, guns, legislation
Wednesday, 07 Mar 2018 10:08 AM
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