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Lee County School Board discuss arming staff members

Posted at 8:36 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 20:38:59-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The School Board of Lee County decided whether they should arm certain staff members as part of the Guardian Program.

The program allows armed personnel on school grounds to protect the school in case of a school shooter. It would be a school employee or an external hire.

Each guardian must have 144 hours of training, but many felt they would only feel comfortable with guardians with a past in law enforcement or the military.

"The more is not always; the better depends on who you are talking about. I don't mean any offense, but as law enforcement, if I am going to be in the school those who are working with me to stop the active assailant I want them just as trained as I am," David Newlan, the Executive Director Safety & Security and Emergency Management, said.

The Guardian Program was established in 2018 after Coach Aaron Feis. Coach Aaron was a coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he was shot by a school shooter. After that day, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission created guardians in schools to help respond quickly to an assailant.

Although the guardians could respond, there are limitations to their duties.

"They can't take police reports. They can't affect an arrest. They have to be very careful being involved in certain things because, technically, they are citizens. They are just able to carry a gun to stop the active assailant," Newlan said.

After the recent school threats within Lee County, the conversation
was needed.

Many outside the boardroom walls think arming teachers would be the best solution, but this program would not allow teachers to be armed.

"To use an employee, it wouldn't be anyone teaching students," Newlan said.

One of the downfalls of the program is the price tag. The funding only covers less than 50 percent of the cost.

The School District of Lee County would have to cough up money to cover the program's cost.

Some board members feel their safe-school officers are enough.

"Law enforcement has that access to our school and they know where everything is. I think we can locate an invader, an assailant or a student who is not where they should be at this time," Mary Fischer said. "I feel comfortable with our current situation."

The current situation is local law enforcement agencies having a presence in the schools.