As a mother of color in Florida, I want to tell the new members who have been elected to the Broward County School Board that what I want for my kids is safer gun laws — not arming teachers. Especially since kids of color are already more likely to be unfairly disciplined and harmed by authority figures in schools.
In August, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis removed four Broward County School Board members after a grand jury named them in a report investigating the use of money earmarked for school security programs in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. A grand jury found that the School Board had neglected to implement safety measures for which they had received millions of dollars in federal funds. This week, the Broward School Board also voted to uphold the firing of Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartright.
DeSantis immediately exploited this tragedy to appoint four well-known Republicans to replace the suspended School Board members. Torey Alston, Manual “Nandy” A. Serrano, Ryan Reiter and Kevin Tynan were chosen by DeSantis, perhaps because he thought they might be more likely to support some of his controversial moves, such as legislation that would allow teachers to carry guns in school. In 2018, the previous iteration of the Broward County School Board voted down the idea of arming teachers. This November’s election resulted in four new members, replacing three of the DeSantis appointees: Allen Zeman, Rodney “Rod” Velez, Jeff Holness and Brenda Fam. Alston will remain on the Board as his term is until 2024.
Our new leaders should leave the notion of arming teachers behind and be focused instead on gun safety.
In one study by the American Psychological Association, researchers analyzed three years of school records, such as disciplinary data and grade point averages and found that 26% of the Black students received at least one suspension for a minor infraction during three years, compared with just 2% of white students. These minor infractions involved offenses such as cell phone usage in class, dress code violations, and inappropriate language. And the Washington Post has reported: “Black children also are significantly more likely than their white peers to receive corporal punishment at school, even though there is no evidence that they are more poorly behaved or break school rules more often than white students do.”
If teachers are able to carry weapons in school, this would only further endanger all students, especially those students of color who are already often unfairly targeted.
It gives me chills to think of a teacher with a gun in a classroom with my children. I have always viewed our schools as a safe space for children to learn, and ideally a place where teachers motivate and encourage our children. I have always believed that our teachers are an integral part of our village, of our communities. They are role models, supportive resources, and authority figures our kids should be able to trust. Teachers should represent an environment where kids feel safe and secure. For many kids — particularly those living in high-crime areas — school is a refuge where they can escape from worries of violence. Seeing their teachers carrying weapons will only put fear into our child’s life.
If we let that happen, ultimately we are teaching them that school is no longer safe and that they are no longer protected. That’s not the society I want for my children.
As a mother, I want to know that my children and all children are safe, especially while they are in school. The only way this will happen is if we shift our focus to supporting legislation such as Biden’s gun safety law. It’s a good first step, but we need to push lawmakers to go much further if we have any hope of seeing an end to the rampant epidemic of school shootings in this country.