Leon County Schools to begin using Guardian Program next school year, teachers, coaches will not be armed

Leon County Schools to begin using Guardian Program next school year, teachers, coaches will not be armed
Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 6:29 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A state-wide program to keep students safe during school is coming to Leon County Schools.

The program is a part of the state-mandated Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act, which was implemented after the Parkland High School shooting in 2018.

Leon County Schools will now be the 44th school district out of 67 in Florida to implement the Guardian program.

The program allows districts to train employees to carry a weapon during school hours.

The district has held off on the program for several years, but now say they feel they have no other options.

The Leon County Board voted unanimously to bring the Guardian Program to the district.

That means while students are at school, each campus must have a law enforcement officer, safety school office or a guardian.

The Chief of Safety and Security for LCS, John Hunkiar, says, “They currently have a large contract with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office which we have had for 40 years.”

Hunkiar says now because of the pandemic, things have changed.

“Why we are where we are is due to officer shortages and during these times, in COVID we’ve had to work hard to make sure our schools are full every day.,” he said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, School Board Chair, Joy Bowen, did address concerns she had about the program.

“We want to make sure that our officers continued to be trained to work in a school environment and to have all the testing that is needed,” Bowen said.

Hunkiar says they’re proposing to train retired law enforcement, first responders and former military members.

All must meet a certain criteria before being hired as a Guardian. Some of the criteria before being hired includes having a clean background check, passing a psychological exam and regular drug screenings.

The school district adamantly says they will not be arming teachers, coaches or counselors.

“It’s not our belief that instructional personnel should also be armed and have a dual capacity. so we’re very proud of our safety program and put a lot of thought before we make decisions like this,” explained Hunkiar.

Hunkiar says they plan to use the Guardian Program at the beginning of next school year.

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