Parkland, Florida school district rejects funds to arm teachers
A senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School weeps in front of a cross and Star of David for shooting victim Meadow Pollack while a fellow classmate consoles her at a memorial by the school in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

The Florida school district that includes the Parkland high school where a gunman massacred 17 teens and teachers rejected its share of new state funding intended to arm educators to help them fight off attackers, county officials said Wednesday.

The Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ramped up a long-running U.S. debate on gun rights and sparked a youth movement led by survivors of the attack, many of whom have been critical of the idea of arming teachers.

The Broward County School Board, which oversees schools including Stoneman, said in a statement Wednesday it had voted unanimously against accepting money from a $67 million statewide program, signed into law last month by Governor Rick Scott as part of a package of gun-control and school safety measures.

 Board members said, instead, that they want Scott, a Republican who earlier this week launched a run for the U.S. Senate, to allow them to allocate the money in other ways, such as providing additional funding for armed school resource officers.”We should definitely launch a campaign to persuade the governor — for those districts who don’t want to arm their employees, that they give us the money to keep our children safe in other ways,” school board member Robin Bartleman said at the meeting, according to the Miami Herald.

Bartleman could not be reached for immediate comment.

In addition to creating the fund to allow school staff to be specially trained and deputized to carry guns on the job, Scott signed measures that raised the state’s minimum age to buy any firearm to 21 and imposed a three-day waiting period on gun purchases. 

The $67 million Aaron Feis Guardian Program, named after a coach who was among those killed in the Stoneman massacre, allows local sheriffs and individual school districts to opt out of the program. Most classroom teachers are excluded from volunteering for the program, a compromise aimed at earning the support of the governor and many lawmakers who had initially opposed the idea.

A 19-year-old man who had been kicked out of Stoneman used a legally purchased AR-15 assault-style rifle in the February attack.

An armed sheriff’s deputy had been present at the Stoneman campus in suburban Fort Lauderdale when the third-deadliest school shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history began, but failed to enter the building where the shooting was occurring.[nL2N1QD049]

Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum