Judge says Duval County (Fla.) district can have armed safety assistants

Oct. 29, 2019
Some parents had sued the Jacksonville area school system to stop the district from having armed civilians patrol schools.

A Florida judge says he will rule in favor of allowing Duval County Public Schools to have armed "school safety assistants" patrolling elementary schools. But before he does, he is giving opponents a chance to amend their lawsuit against the school system.

The Florida Times-Union reports that some parents had sued the district, contending that the school board didn’t have the authority to enact the policy putting them in place.

Following the deadly 2018 shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., state lawmakers passed a law requiring the district to hire enough school police officers to place one at every campus.

When Duval County couldn’t afford to do so, the school board opted to use school safety assistants instead. The safety assistants are trained, armed, non-law enforcement officers to patrol elementary schools across Duval County.

But opponents of the safety assistants cited a Florida law that makes it illegal for anyone besides law enforcement to carry guns on campus.

“This boils down to whether they [district officials] have the power to enact this policy,” says Justin Raphael, lead attorney for the students and parents suing the school district. “No court has addressed that question.”

Circuit Court Judge Robert M. Dees agreed that the law wasn’t crystal clear.

“Even though I think it was a passive way to authorize guardians to carry firearms, I do think that they intended to bring school guardians within the exception to those who are prevented from carrying firearms on school campuses,” he said. “So that’s going to be the ruling.”

Dees gave the plaintiffs’ side a week to amend their complaint or decide if they want to appeal.

“I think everybody has the same goal and that’s to protect the children,” the judge said. “There’s just different ideas about how to do that.”

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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