Why People Of Color Are Wary Of Arming School Employees

Some skeptics say Florida's bill allowing school employees to carry firearms could further endanger students and employees of color.

Why People Of Color Are Wary Of Arming School Employees
Getty Images / Scott Olson

Some Florida state representatives of color have concerns about guns in school.

"Isn't it possible, under your bill, that a guardian can gun down a particular person in that school who does not possess a physical weapon?" asked state Rep. Kionne L. McGhee. 

"Could it possibly be interpreted that somebody who begins attacking students in a classroom could be an active assailant, even if they don't have a firearm?" asked state Rep. Nick Duran.

"Is that individual allowed to stand his or her ground even if an active shooter is not in the building?" asked state Rep. Shevrin Jones.

Those lawmakers are asking about the "guardian program," a provision in a bill that Florida lawmakers passed Wednesday that would allow school faculty and staff to carry guns if they meet certain criteria.

The bill was sent to Gov. Rick Scott, but it's uncertain if he'll sign it into law. Scott has said he'll speak to families before signing.

The bill's sponsor said the only way a school employee would be allowed to use their firearm is if there is an active shooter. But some of those concerns from lawmakers could stem from how school employees interact with children of color and how that could change if those employees are armed.

Let's be clear: There is no data that shows students of color would be in more danger if school employees are armed. But there is research that shows children of color are disproportionately disciplined in educational settings.

According to the Department of Education, black students are three times more likely to be suspended and expelled than white students. And black girls were suspended at a higher rate than most boys in general.

Higher rates of discipline for students of color could be attributed to implicit racial biases of teachers — something that can appear as early as preschool.

And some skeptics of the "guardian program" suggest school employees of color could also face discrimination if they carry firearms. One of the most cited examples is that of Philando Castile, a school employee who had a licensed firearm when a police officer shot and killed him during a traffic stop in 2016.

According to the Florida bill, most teachers would not be allowed to participate. For other school employees, it would be purely voluntary, and they must be licensed to carry a firearm and go through 132 hours of firearm training. Volunteers would also receive a one-time $500 stipend.