JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Thursday a group of Jacksonville parents and elementary school students joined the League of Women Voters of Florida in filing suit in Duval County, challenging a school district program that will threaten student safety by allowing new hires with minimal training to carry guns in Jacksonville elementary schools. The plaintiffs are represented by Giffords Law Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center; and pro bono counsel at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.
“The League of Women Voters of Florida has long advocated against allowing unqualified citizens to carry firearms on school campuses,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the Florida League. “The idea that these “guards” would keep our schools safer from gun violence is misguided and absurd.”
The school district implemented the program in an effort to comply with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (SB 7026). Under the program, new school employees called “School Safety Assistants” (SSAs) — who have minimal training and are not law enforcement officers — will carry concealed weapons in more than 100 Duval County elementary schools.
The suit alleges that the program not only puts thousands of students at risk — especially students of color and students with disabilities — but also violates Florida law that prohibits carrying guns in schools. That law exempts law enforcement officers, however, SSAs are not law enforcement officers. Accordingly, it is illegal for SSAs to carry guns on school property.
The suit alleges that the program puts the lives of thousands of students in the hands of inadequately trained personnel and that the Board can eliminate this risk, keep Jacksonville schools, students, and educators safe, and comply with the law by having unarmed school personnel serve a number of functions recommended by a broad consensus of educators, researchers, and law enforcement. For example, unarmed SSAs could develop emergency-response plans with law enforcement, create and promote comprehensive mental health services, serve as the point of contact for local child-serving agencies and first responders, ensure that entrances and exits are properly secured, train school staff and students in emergency preparedness, and undertake other safety-related functions.