Back before Christmas, we looked at the initial findings of the Stoneman Douglas Commission in Florida which had been tasked with studying ways to improve school security in the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Margory Stoneman Douglas High School. Many of their recommendations seemed quite solid (assuming they can find the money for them) and didn’t cause much controversy. But the 15 person panel raised more than a few eyebrows when they voted 14-1 in favor of allowing qualified, willing teachers to arm themselves in class as a possible first line of defense. This had the teachers unions and some student activists up in arms, but the panel still sent their findings on to the full commission for approval.
That process is now complete, and the commission has unanimously approved the entire package, forwarding their results to the state government. And yes, the provision for arming teachers is still in there. (Boston Globe)
The commission investigating a shooting massacre at a Florida high school unanimously approved its initial findings and recommendations Wednesday, including a controversial proposal that teachers who volunteer and undergo training be allowed to carry guns.
The 15-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s 446-page report details what members believe happened before, during, and after the Feb. 14, 2017, shooting attack that left 14 students and three staff members dead and 17 wounded.
The report, which the commission sent to Governor Rick Scott, incoming Governor Ron DeSantis, and the Legislature, is also critical of the Broward County sheriff’s deputies who failed to confront suspect Nikolas Cruz, and of Sheriff Scott Israel, whose office did not at the time have a policy requiring them to rush the three-story freshman building where the shooting happened.
The fact that the commission was critical of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department is probably interesting to the public, but unlikely to result in any charges. It could still be constructive, however, if it leads to a full review of the department’s updated policies on how officers respond to critical threats such as a mass shooting at a school.
As far as the upgrades to security go, the highlights of the report look pretty good. It’s not full of unrealistic or unattainable goals and all of the recommendations seem to take into account the challenges of funding such measures. In districts where the funding is available, upgrades such as metal detectors, more secure doors, and armed resource officers are being proposed. Intervention efforts when students report individuals who may pose a threat might be a bit more constitutionally challenging, but they should at least keep such considerations in the minds of school administrators.
The choice to allow trained teachers to arm themselves will likely have the biggest impact in more rural school districts with smaller budgets. And the provisions they’ve included to make sure there are only qualified people doing this should satisfy all but the most partisan opponents. Background checks and intensive training programs are required. This should open up the opportunity to carry to more teachers. Currently, the only ones who can do so are current or former police officers, active military members, or Junior ROTC instructors. That’s a pretty small slice of the overall teacher population.
I have to give credit to Florida for putting the politics aside and moving to make concrete improvements in school security. This won’t be able to stop every shooting incident, but it should at least improve response times and give prospective mass shooters pause before plotting such attacks.