SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — A heated debate took place at the Santa Rosa County Commissioner meeting on Tuesday afternoon over funding schools with “guardians.”
The “Guardian Program” allows volunteered school staff or trained personnel to be armed in the building at any time all in hopes to make it safer for students in Florida.
However, it’s sparked much controversy, since the Santa Rosa County Schools are the only district in the panhandle without starting up this program.
This has lead to some residents speaking out.
Owner of Gulf Coast Guns and Outdoors Chris Smith said, “It’s just another protection for our kids in schools. It’s not to take away from the SRO’s that are already in the schools. It’s just another resource that doesn’t cost a lot of money for the school system.”
Smith says his wife is a teacher and he owns a gun store… so the Guardian Program is something he personally is very passionate about. He tells WKRG News 5 the people against it haven’t done all their research.
“The training for a teacher is 144 hours, which is actually more than a sheriff’s deputies firearms training, says Smith. “A sheriffs deputy out of the academy has 80 hours of firearms training under their belt.”
Smith added the person carrying it at the school will stay anonymous.
Smith says 42 out of the 67 counties in Florida have gotten on board. He also said he has heard not one complaint has been made either.
WKRG News 5 reached out to the school district on why it hasn’t gone through yet.
Superintendent Dr. Karen Barber issued this statement:
“The primary focus of the Santa Rosa County School District is always the health, safety, and welfare of our students. The school district will continue to investigate the guardian program with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.”
We also spoke with Assistant. Superintendent Joey Harrell, saying they are not against the program and are still in the works of making a decision about it all. He says the district has talked with county officials, the sheriff’s office, sent out surveys to parents, and have to put into perspective the budget they’ve been dealt with after a tough year.
The funding was approved by the county but it’s ultimately up to the superintendent before any final decision about the program are made. However, Smith says he will keep pushing it until the day it is approved… even offering his own help.
“We are offering two guns free of charge. We will help with training if they need any help, but Sheriff Bob Johnson with Santa Rosa County will be in charge of it,” Smith said.
Florida is the only state to offer this program.