Palm Beach County schools considering plan to arm some employees on campus

South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Wells Dusenbury | January 17, 2023

The Palm Beach County School District is taking a closer look at a plan that could allow for staff members to carry guns on campus.

During a Thursday meeting of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation, Palm Beach Schools Superintendent Mike Burke said the district is taking a “fresh look” at the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, a statewide initiative which trains school employees to use guns in the event of a school shooting. The program, which began in 2018, is named after a coach and unarmed security monitor who was one of 17 killed in the Parkland shooting.

Palm Beach County has not participated in the program, but Burke said he’s interested in sending “a small cadre of people through the school guardian training as kind of as a pilot [program] to allow us to better evaluate it and see if it may make sense.”

In August, the leaders of the Department of Education and a state safety commission said a major priority will be to find ways to expand the guardian program. As a result, Burke said they want to “get more information about the program knowing it could become a requirement.”

The program would require participants to go through 180 hours of training, which would include a heavy focus on marksmanship and target practice, Burke said.

The program could act as a supplement to school police officers who already operate on Palm Beach County campuses, Burke said, adding that some high school campuses can be “40 acres,” making it difficult to properly patrol the entire campus.

“Even if we have two or three [school police] officers, that’s a lot of acres to cover,” Burke said. “[If] there is an assistant principal or a coach like the namesake of the program, Aaron Feis, who might have that background, it might be a handy thing to have in terms.”

Adding the guardian program in Palm Beach County has not been officially brought to the School Board yet for consideration.

Broward began training guardians in 2018 and hopes to expand its armed security force. The district has about 70 armed guardians to supplement school resource officers. Applicants are required to have at least two years armed security guard experience in the past decade, or two years in the military or law enforcement.

The school district, however, passed a resolution in 2019 preventing teachers from participating in the program.

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