Manatee school board votes 'no' on arming teachers

As lawmakers in the Florida Senate moved forward with a bill Tuesday that allows teachers to be armed with guns, the Manatee County School Board voted not to support arming teachers in the classroom under the proposed bill.

The school board approved a resolution to not arm teachers after hearing impassioned pleas from students, teachers, and parents.

“I’m extremely happy with this decision. I don’t want guns in our schools. I think that’s terrifying,” said Maddie Hotling, an 8th-grade student at R. Dan Nolan Middle School.

Hotling and her friend, Sophie Bell spoke before the board about how armed teachers made them feel as students.

“I’m just so glad that teachers aren’t going to have guns because it would just make most kids at school so much more scared including myself,” said Bell, an 8th-grade student at R. Dan Nolan Middle School.

The proposed school safety bill includes a controversial element which expands the state’s guardian program to allow schools to arm teachers. The Florida Senate passed the bill Tuesday afternoon, with supporting lawmakers saying who is at a school, within the first three minutes of a shooting, is key.

“You have got the first three minutes of an event, that you don’t want to turn into a heartache, a tragedy, and a massacre,” said State Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.

While the legislation would give schools the choice to opt out of arming teachers, parents said they want Manatee County to take a stand.

“The board said we are not going to do that and that means a lot. For the rest of the counties and districts, it’s up to them,” said Makiko Felice, a Manatee County parents and member of Moms Demand Action.

Other parents voiced concerns about the possibility of students having access to the gun and the potential that a teacher could misuse the firearm.

“I think there are so many potential consequences and so many liabilities associated with that,” said Trent Miller, a Manatee County parent.

So far, two other local counties, Hillsborough County and Sarasota County, voted not to support arming teachers in schools. As for the proposed statewide bill, it goes to the Florida House for a vote.