After Florida lawmakers successfully passed a new school safety bill this week, many black parents have expressed concern for the safety of their children at school. The concern stems from a provision in the bill would allow certain school officials or “guardians” to carry concealed firearms in school, and it’s making parents consider pulling kids out of school.
Since the Parkland shooting, survivors of the tragedy, members of the media, lawmakers, and citizens have all struggled to agree on how to keep kids safe at school. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act seemed like a step in the right direction, but with the inclusion of the “guardian” program, many fear that black students will be the victims of undue violence at school, much like they are in the outside world.
Several Democrats in the Republican-controlled State Congress tried unsuccessfully to remove the provision from the bill, but between the government inaction in the wake of Parkland and the GOP’s seemingly never-ending effort to avoid lowering gun sales, it was always unlikely that the state Democrats would be successful.
“We’ve already been traumatized, and we’re looking over our shoulder after everything that happened with Trayvon Martin and what happened in Ferguson and everywhere else,” said Sulaya Williams, a 35-year-old mother of three in an interview with CNN. “And now we’re going to be sitting here wondering are our kids going to be targets while going to school?”
Florida is one of the states that use “stand your ground” laws, which state that a person does not need to try retreating from a situation before using deadly force; “stand your ground” was a large part of why George Zimmerman was found not guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
Beyond the fact that more firearms at school and in the hands of people with less than adequate training makes everyone at that school less safe in general, the numbers that prop up claims about implicit bias are all there. According to the CRDC, black students are already four times as likely to be suspended as white students. While only 16 percent of students enrolled in school across the US are black, they represent more than one-quarter of students referred to law enforcement, and 31 percent of students subjected to a school-related arrest.
“You have to have the temperament to judge a situation whether to shoot or not to shoot,” said Auburn Ford, a father of one who told CNN that he’s thinking of taking his 17-year-old son out of school if the law goes into full effect. “To ask a teacher to do that when you still have law enforcement officers that make mistakes, that’s what I’m fearful of.”
In an op-ed for Time, Sherrilyn Ifill, president, and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said that laws that can arm school workers need to be “forcefully and relentlessly” protested.
“It does not take a great deal of imagination to contemplate instances in which armed teachers dealing with recalcitrant children will react out of fear and racial stereotype and discharge their weapons as they do the disciplinary code,” she wrote.