Should teachers carry guns?

OKEECHOBEE — Earlier this year Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that allowed school districts to expand the school guardian program to permit classroom teachers to carry firearms.

The Okeechobee School District had already given non-instructional staff at schools the go-ahead to sign up for the guardian program last year, but now school board members are considering if they’d like to extend that program to Okeechobee teachers as well.

During the build up to approving the original guardian program last year, the Okeechobee school district published a survey seeking opinions from the community on the matter. The majority of the feedback from that survey was in favor of implementing the program in Okeechobee schools. But school board chairperson Jill Holcomb expressed a desire to check back with the community on the issues of expanding the program, since the original survey only dealt with arming non-instructional staff and not teachers.

“This is a little bit of a different animal than the guardian program we already have,” said Mrs. Holcomb. “So I would like to get the pulse of the community and get their thoughts on it. I don’t think we can rely on that survey data we gathered. Because it is very different when you’re talking about a teacher in a classroom as opposed to personnel on school grounds.”

The school district currently has a new survey online and is seeking feedback from the community. The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/Guardianprogram.

After only being up one day, the link to the survey posted on Facebook has already drawn nearly 100 comments on the issue, with residents voicing both support and apprehension at expanding the program.

At their July 9 meeting, the school board also approved an agreement with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office for the 2019-2020 school resource officer (SRO) program at a cost of $523,105.

Back on June 17 the members from the school board attended a workshop with the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners and Okeechobee City Council on how to fund the SRO program. However, not much work was done at the workshop, as at the beginning of the meeting county officials agreed to keep helping the school district fund the program as they had in years past.

Both county officials and school board members agreed they would continue to push lawmakers in Tallahassee to help fund the state mandated SRO program.

The Okeechobee County School Board will meet again on July 24 to consider advertisement of proposed millage rates and proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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