Hillsborough Co. School Board votes 'no' on arming teachers

- The Hillsborough County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to let Governor Rick Scott know they are opposed to arming any school employees.

The vote came as lawmakers in Tallahassee debated whether to allow certain school staff to carry weapons on campuses.

"We have an obligation to keep our students safe," said board member Cindy Stuart. "Teachers are meant to be educators, not law enforcement."

Stuart crafted the letter the board voted to sent to the governor and told FOX 13, "I wanted this board to send a clear message to both the legislative body and to the governor that we do not support arming our teachers or any other staff members."

Board member April Griffin indicated the district might be willing to violate the law, should the state try to force districts to allow certain employees to carry guns.

"I want to know what penalties would be placed on this district if that law is passed and signed by our governor to say that 'we will not abide by this law,'" Griffin said.

The discussion about how to make schools safer has been ongoing since a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last month.

Board members said they'd rather focus on making mental health counseling more accessible and available to students.

Before the board voted to approve the letter to Scott, two Hillsborough County students, including 16-year-old Strawberry High School student N'dia Webb, pleaded with board members to keep guns out of the hands of anyone other than law enforcement.

"You're not the ones that have to go and be worried about whether or not it's the last time you're going to say goodbye to your mom," Webb said, as tears streamed down her face. "Arming them is not the answer. I would like to say it a little bit louder for the people in [the back of the room], arming them is not going to help anything!"

Lawmakers in favor of the idea, however, explained why they believe this is a responsible way to defend classrooms.

"This is a program that allows school districts, on a voluntary basis along with the sheriff's office on a voluntary basis, to come together and set a rigorous set of standards to allow for those teachers who can qualify, with some exceptions, to be able to go through a rigorous training program," said Rep. Jose Oliva, a Republican from Miami Lakes.

Oliva pointed to Stoneman Douglas football coach Aaron Feis, who was killed while shielding students from the gunman, as an example of someone who could have helped if he was armed.

"How a person will react is unknown," Oliva said. "What I can tell you is given that situation, I suspect that we all would have liked Coach Aaron Feis to have had this training and be armed on this morning."

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