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Parkland shooting panel approves report recommending arming teachers

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A Florida panel investigating last year’s deadly shooting at a Parkland high school unanimously approved a report that, among other proposals, recommended that some teachers be armed to protect students.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission submitted its 439-page report to Florida’s governor on Wednesday. The panel had 15 appointees, including a number of law-enforcement professionals, health professionals, education experts, and parents of the shooting victims.

Much of the report assailed the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, criticizing the deputies who failed to confront the shooter, Nikolas Cruz. It also criticized the school district for failing to pick up on warning signs that Cruz could turn violent, and failing to establish clear lockdown procedures.

Protesters arrive for the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC.
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“The Florida legislature should expand the Guardian Program to allow teachers who volunteer — in addition to those now authorized — who are properly selected, thoroughly screened and extensively trained to carry concealed firearms on campuses for self-protection, and the protection of other staff and students in response to an active assailant incident,” the Parkland report said.

The Guardian Program is part of a $400 million school-safety law that Florida implemented last year, which allows schools to deploy specially trained, armed “guardians” at schools to respond to active shooters. The guardians are trained by local sheriff’s departments, and undergo extensive background checks.

Read more: Florida teacher who sheltered dozens of students lays out a simple explanation for why arming faculty won’t work

Students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, two weeks after the deadly shooting.
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But the Parkland panel recommended that schools should “permit the most expansive use of the Guardian Program under existing law,” expanding it beyond just designated guardians, so that regular school staff members and teachers can take part.

Arming teachers, a proposal that President Donald Trump vehemently backed last year, has been one of the more controversial ideas to spring from the country’s epidemic of school shootings.

Though critics say arming teachers could burden them with responsibility beyond their job descriptions, and raise a whole new set of safety concerns, its supporters say teachers should have the right to protect themselves and their students.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s teacher’s union, has opposed arming teachers and urged lawmakers to “keep additional firearms from our schools unless they are in the hands of trained law enforcement personnel.”

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