June 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Governor Signs Law that Allows Florida School Librarians to be Armed


Florida Governor Rick Scott
Photo Credit Meredyth Hope Hall

The American Library Association (ALA) and American Association of School Librarians (AASL)–along with the Florida teachers union and superintendents association and NAACP—tried but failed to keep Governor Rick Scott from passing a law that will allow librarians and other school staff (excluding classroom teachers) to carry firearms in public schools.

Scott signed the bill Friday despite his opposition to the school guardian program in the bill that allows some school personnel to carry concealed weapons on campus, according to the Miami Herald, which reported that family members of all 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victims signed a statement supporting passage of the legislation that imposes new gun restrictions in the state.

The ALA and AASL did not publicly comment on the bill being signed into law. When asked for comment or an interview, a spokesperson emailed a copy of an earlier statement released the day before the bill’s signing and asking the governor to to listen to the recommendations of the state’s educators and not “undermine the sense of security that is critical to students.”

The presidents of the ALA and AASL had issued the joint statement. The Florida Education Association had asked the governor to use a line veto to keep the guardian program out of the law. The state superintendents association and NAACP also publicly opposed that portion of the bill.

“The ALA and AASL support the efforts of Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) and Florida Library Association to provide safe and accessible learning spaces for students and learners of all ages,” Jim Neal (ALA) and Steven Yates (AASL) said in the statement released as educators and people on both sides of the gun control debate awaited Scott’s action.

“School librarians work with classroom teachers to provide instruction integral to the curriculum and offer additional informal learning opportunities for students. School librarians are invaluable teachers who offer an enriching learning environment for students and colleagues throughout the school.  Firearms in our school libraries, as in any other classroom, will undermine the sense of security that is critical to students and divert school librarian attention away from the core focus of student learning.

“While we are all too aware of the gun violence that affects the communities that we serve, including our schools, we do not believe that allowing the arming of school librarians with guns is the answer to preventing violence and mass shootings. Schools need more resources, including the expertise of a certified school librarian for teaching and learning.

“We strongly encourage Governor Rick Scott and the Florida state legislature to honor the recommendations of FAME and other statewide teaching organizations regarding SB 7026.”

The “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program,” which is the part of the bill that would allow some teachers to volunteer to be armed, is named for the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School assistant football coach who was killed in the February 14 school shooting.

Enacting the program would be at the discretion of a local sheriff, according to the bill, and any staff members who volunteers to be a “school guardian” and carry a firearm must take more than 130 hours of training, pass a psychological evaluation and drug test and successfully complete at least 12 hours of a certified “nationally recognized diversity training program” before gaining the school guardian certificate.

There would then be ongoing training, weapon checks and annual firearm qualification, as well as random drug tests.

Kara Yorio About Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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  1. Tony Tochtrop says:

    This does little to make students safer. It does create possibly more gun sales. Spend money budgeted to give teachers and librarians the on-going training and direct those funds toward mental health staff and support.

  2. Sandra Jones says:

    I’m a librarian, and I have a conceal carry permit. Every day I work unarmed in my library while my gun sits useless in a locked vehicle. Wouldn’t it be better for me to have the weapon hidden on my person and available in case someone did try to attack my students? I want that option and would take the extra training to have that protection.

    • I thank you Sandra. No one will be forcing librarians or teachers to have a gun. And I disagree that the kids will be more fearful knowing some adult has a gun. And who would actually know who is carrying? When our library put up the “No Guns” stickers on the doors my first thought was “great,now the bad guys know no one here has a gun.”

    • I’m a public librarian and I happen to agree with you

    • I just wonder what is going to happen to the teacher who accidentally shoots and kills a student.

    • Unfortunately, Sandra, most of your colleagues vote for people who’d rather you be disarmed and vulnerable than able to protect yourself and your students.

    • I’m a public librarian in Australia; Melbourne actually, the second city of UNESCO’s 28 Cities of Literature, and not many people have guns in my professional or social circles (and certainly not concealed carry licenses), but I was just wondering, aren’t you concerned that if someone steals your car, that they will have access to your gun, with all that implies. We have very strict rules about where firearms can be stored here in Australia. I was also wondering how you would identify yourself to authorities who responded to ‘an incident’, who of course have bullet proof vests and legislated authority to use deadly force. Will you shout out ‘good guy here – don’t shoot’ ?

      Can you see how more people with more guns might not necessarily be an improvement? Would you know which other citizens have concealed carries? And do you trust them to shoot calmly, accurately and discriminatively under duress?

    • Michele Crowley says:

      I am a middle school librarian and I would not feel comfortable personally with a firearm but I feel strongly that we need more people in the building who could protect us. It takes too long for the police to arrive and if more people were armed, the shooter(s) would be less likely to enter the building in the first place. So I completely agree with you.

    • Carmen Boheler says:

      Like you, Sandra, I am a school librarian with a concealed weapon permit. If a violent incident ever occurs in our library, we will mostly likely have to be our own first responder. I don’t like the idea of hiding and waiting for a killer to walk through the door, like a sitting duck. The police in Parkland never entered the building until the incident was over. Who can we really count on but ourselves? We need more options. When our lives are in danger, don’t we call someone with a gun and hope they get there in time? When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

      I believe carrying a weapon in schools should be on a volunteer-only basis with many hours of ongoing training and meeting required qualifications.

  3. Mike Key says:

    I was expecting typical PC bee-hive responses to this article. Boy, was I wrong! It’s good to know that some of my fellow librarians are able to see beyond ALA party line boilerplate. I’m thinking of creating the Librarians for Guns organization. Who wants to join? The ALA will welcome us with hugs and kisses.

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