Miami-Dade School Board opposes Legislature's proposal to allow armed staffers

2014-03-13 | The Miami Herald

March 13--The Miami-Dade County School Board joined teachers unions and parents Wednesday in opposition of legislation moving through the state capital that would allow designated school employees or volunteers to carry guns on campus.

The board voted 8 to 1 to oppose the proposal, which would allow Florida superintendents and principals to authorize certain trained and permitted individuals to carry concealed firearms at school as a safety measure. Sen. Alan Hays, a Republican from Umatilla who is sponsoring the senate version of the bill, says the legislation is "in the interest of maintaining a safe learning environment for all of our schoolchildren."

Hays' bill passed a Senate panel Monday -- the same day that Miramar police arrested and charged a student with bringing an assault rifle in his car onto school grounds -- and a House version passed a committee Wednesday.

The legislation still has a long way to go before becoming law, and the same proposal stalled last year. But school board Vice Chairman Lawrence Feldman urged his colleagues to oppose the legislation.

"I'm not willing to take a chance of having to go to a kid's funeral because someone in school has permission to carry a gun," Feldman said.

Were it to pass, the legislation wouldn't actually require the school district to change its zero-tolerance gun policy, school board attorney Walter Harvey said. And Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he wouldn't recommend a change in policy.

But Board member Raquel Regalado worried that the proposed legislation could give gun-righteous employees the basis for a lawsuit against the district.

"It does entitle any employee of Miami-Dade schools to call upon that Florida law and say it is their right to bring a gun to school," she said.

Still, the bill's questionable lack of impact on the school district led some board members to question whether to make an issue of the legislation when there are other pressing matters in Tallahassee during the legislative session. Carlos Curbelo, who voted against the item, said taking the position was a "waste of political capital."

"It's so unfortunate to frame this in a way that if you vote against this someone will end up at a child's funeral," he said during a tense exchange with Feldman.

In supporting Feldman's proposal, the school board authorized Carvalho to send the message to the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation.

In other action Wednesday, the school board:

Announced a partnership with the University of Miami and Jackson Health System to train thousands in what they hope will be a massive, record-breaking CPR class. The idea came as a result of Pamela Rauseo's resuscitation of her 5-month-old nephew last month on the Dolphin Expressway, which was captured by a Miami Herald photographer.

Voted to review its refugee emergency contingency plan to "address a potential influx of Venezuelan students" should the political violence and tensions in the country lead to an exodus to South Florida. The proposal was brought by Board Member Susie Castillo, whose district includes the city of Doral, where there is a large Venezuelan community.