The superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools made it clear Thursday that teachers in his district will not be carrying weapons.
Florida lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow more teachers to carry guns in school. The bill is in response to last year’s massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School.
The measure that was passed expands on the existing guardian program to allow any teacher to volunteer to carry a weapon if their school district approves.
Superintendent Jeff Eakins released a statement Thursday saying that will not be happening in his district.
“I want to be very clear, teachers in Hillsborough County Public Schools will NOT carry weapons,” he said. “In order for teachers and staff to be armed in any school, our school district would have to opt-in to this part of the Guardian program. WE HAVE NO PLANS TO OPT-IN.”
Eakins says Hillsborough Schools worked with Sheriff Chad Chronister and local police chiefs last year when a bill was passed to put the guardian program in place. He says they determined the safest plan for Hillsborough County Schools was to use school security officers trained by the sheriff’s office.
“Our School Board members made it very clear that they oppose arming teachers,” Eakins said. “Our stance has not changed.”
In his statement, Eakins adds that the Hillsborough school board was one of the first in the state to address the issue and vote unanimously to reject any proposals to arm teachers.
Over the past year, Eakins says 210 additional security officers and supervisors have been hired to staff every elementary school and charter school in the district. They also staff ESE centers, career centers and technical colleges. Middle schools and high schools are protected by officers and deputies from local law enforcement agencies.
“Every one of our School Security officers has gone through more than 100 hours of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office training, including active shooter response, defensive tactics and firearms training, in addition to the training that our district provides,” Eakins said.
The superintendent’s statement was posted to the district’s Facebook page on Thursday. Within an hour, it had been liked, shared and commented on hundreds of times.
Most of the comments on the post appear to support the district’s decision and include praise for the superintendent for taking the stance. There are also several comments from people who disapprove of the decision.