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Florida's Broward County rejects arming of school employees

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 4/11/2018 By Scott Travis, Sun Sentinel

a group of stuffed animals on display in a field: A tribute to student Joaquin Oliver and Coach Aaron Feis is left at the base of a white cross at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. White crosses stand in a field at the park to memorialize the 17 people killed Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. © Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS A tribute to student Joaquin Oliver and Coach Aaron Feis is left at the base of a white cross at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. White crosses stand in a field at the park to memorialize the 17 people killed Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Police officers will be the only ones allowed to carry guns in Broward County schools.

The School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to decline to participate in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.

Named after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High football coach who died in the Feb. 14 school shooting, the program provides $67 million statewide for training and stipends for certain school employees to be armed.

"This would mean more guns, the purchase of more guns, the legalization of more guns and more guns brought from the community into schools," School Board member Rosalind Osgood said.

The idea was originally to allow teachers to be armed, but opposition killed that plan. Instead, the law allows librarians, administrators, coaches, ROTC instructors and others to have weapons. The employees must undergo 132 hours of firearms training.

The School Board said it wants the state to allow it to use some of the money to hire more school police officers.

"To leave $67 million on the table is a travesty," School Board member Robin Bartleman said. "For those districts that don't want to arm employees, they should give us money to keep children safe in other ways."

However, hiring more officers may also prove to be a challenge. District lawyer Barbara Myrick said she's been told there already weren't enough officers graduating from academies to handle the current need. State funding could increase that demand by about 5,000 police officers statewide.

Board members discussed whether they were willing to hire armed security officers but couldn't come to an agreement.

It's the second time since the Stoneman Douglas shooting that the School Board has taken a stand against arming teachers. It was included in a motion supporting gun control that the School Board passed March 6. That resolution was geared toward proposals by the federal government.

Many other large school districts passed similar measures.

So far, none of the 10 largest school districts in Florida has indicated any interest in arming anyone on school campuses other than law enforcement.

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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