Parents sue over Florida school district program that arms staff

Parents of elementary school students in Jacksonville, Fla., are suing the county school board over a new policy that allows certain school employees to carry concealed guns.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in state court, is backed by Giffords Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center and claims the Duval County School Board adopted an illegal program that puts tens of thousands of children in harms way at more than 100 elementary schools.

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After the February mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school, which killed 17 students and staff, the state passed a law that requires districts to provide a “Safe-School Officer” at every school.

Attorneys in the lawsuit argue that nothing in the law requires those officers to carry guns, and no provision allows school guardians to do so.

The program adopted by the Duval Country School Board allows inadequately trained individuals who are not law enforcement officers to carry guns while policing public schools, according to attorneys.

“While perhaps a well-intended effort to comply with a new state school safety law, the program is based on an incorrect interpretation of—and is contrary to—law,” the attorneys wrote in their lawsuit.

The legal groups are asking a Florida state court to issue an order permanently blocking school safety assistants from carrying firearms in, or on the property of, any school in the county.

Adam Skaggs, chief counsel of the Giffords Law Center, said in a statement Thursday that the Florida legislature made a mess of the school-safety legislation that was demanded in the wake of the Parkland shooting and failed to give Florida counties adequate resources to create safe, healthy learning environments.

“Duval County’s response, while perhaps well-intentioned, made a bad situation worse and created a dangerous and unlawful policy that will traumatize young children, put them at risk of injury or worse, and will fail to prevent the kind of tragic shootings that have become commonplace in America,” he said.

Updated at 2:14 p.m.