Florida lawmakers are expected to pass a school safety plan that would put guns in the hands of some school employees, but the measure could come with new risks.
A search of discipline files for licensed educators in the state turned up at least 19 incidents involving eligible “school support” employees who were accused of threatening students or colleagues, harming students or illegally using firearms, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
The review was not exhaustive and did not include unlicensed employees, such as janitors and cafeteria workers, who could be armed under the proposal introduced after the deadly Parkland shooting.
The proposal would allow school districts the option to arm any employee who is not solely a full-time teacher, and local sheriffs would also be permitted to appoint and train “school marshals.”
“We don’t know who would be allowed to have the gun,” Rep. Lori Berman (D-Palm Beach County). “We joke that it’s the lunch lady, but it’s not really a joke.”
Republicans, including President Donald Trump, and the National Rifle Association have called for teachers or other school employees to be armed to prevent future school shootings.
But the incidents uncovered by the Times — although quite rare — show the potentially tragic risk of putting guns in the hands of some school employees.
“These people are so stressed and we’re gonna put a gun in their hand,” said state Rep. Larry Lee (D-Port St. Lucie). “It’s going to have some unintentional consequences.”
The newspaper identified more than 80 educators, including 19 support workers, who acted violently, made threats or were charged with a gun-related crime.
The database review found 13 threatened to shoot their students, including one “frightfully aggressive” email sent by one Palm Beach County teacher to colleagues and students.
An Orlando art teacher threatened to shoot an elementary-school student “right between the eyes” if he spilled paint.
Another teacher told a colleague he used student photos for target practice and wished one student would come on his property so he could shoot him.
“They should worry about me shooting up the place,” said that teacher, according to a colleague at the Pike County school.
Other teachers listed in the database shot at family members and neighbors during domestic disputes, including a Palatka wrestling coach who still has his teaching license despite shooting at his girlfriend during a violent dispute.