Broward County declines to take part in armed school employee program

State program started in response to Parkland school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward County School Board has decided not to take part in the state's newly established school guardian program, which allows certain school employees to carry weapons on the job.

The school guardian program was enacted in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Seventeen people were killed in the Valentine's Day shooting, including football coach Aaron Feis who died while protecting students.

The program, which was scaled back after objections from Parkland survivors, is named for Feis. Proponents of the program, including the National Rifle Association, believe that if Feis were armed, he could have stopped gunman Nikolas Cruz and prevented deaths.

Originally, all school employees, including classroom teachers, were eligible to take part, but lawmakers settled on only giving the option to employees who are not primarily classroom instructors such as coaches, Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps instructors and other support staff. 

The program requires more than 100 hours of training for school employees, and lawmakers also gave school districts such as Broward County the option to opt out of the program.

The guardian program was one of the number changes passed by Florida lawmakers in the wake of the shooting. Other changes included raising the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21, adding a three-day waiting period for the sale of long guns, and enabling authorities to confiscate weapons from people who are believed to be a threat to themselves or others.

The school board said the money allotted for the guardian program would be redirected toward hiring more school resource officers.

Last week, Palm Beach County school board also declined to take part in the program. Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has said he is opposed to the program, but board has not formally declined to participate.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.