Last month, more than 200 teachers from Pinellas County signed up for a free class to learn about carrying a concealed weapon, according to the man offering the class.
On Saturday, it’s time for Hillsborough County teachers to take their turn.
More than 100 have signed up for the free class, which normally costs $75, offered by International Executive Protection. Another 100 are on a waiting list, said Lenny Bogdanos, owner and president of the Clearwater-based company.
In the wake of December’s tragic shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Bogdanos said there has been plenty of interest by teachers and other educators on wanting to become armed.
While it’s currently illegal for school officials – except for a school resource officer – to have a gun on campus in Florida, the idea of educators packing heat is gaining ground here and elsewhere.
In one Colorado district, the superintendent and a principal have been given approval to carry weapons in school. In New Jersey, one high school’s board voted to allow the principal there – a former police officer – to be armed with a gun.
And in Florida, a bill filed in the Florida House would make it legal for a principal to designate a properly trained teacher or other staff member to carry a gun during school hours.
“I think anybody who wants to learn about weapons should absolutely do that,” said Candy Olson, a school board member in Hillsborough County. “I don’t think it means they ought to bring them into the schools.”
“Do we really want a kid to be able to grab a gun?” Olson asked.
School board chairwoman April Griffin agrees.
“I don’t want our teachers carrying concealed weapons in our schools,” Griffin said. “If we are going to go that route of having someone in our schools who is armed, I want it to be an armed law enforcement officer.”
The school board chairwoman said she has spoken to many teachers about the topic, and she doesn’t find a lot of them who want to be armed.
“They don’t want to carry guns, that is not what they signed on for,” Griffin said. “Our teachers became teachers so they could educate children and change lives, not so they could become first responders.
“There are so many things that can go wrong with teachers or principals or assistant principals being armed in our schools, and that is worrisome to me,” she added. “The potential for disaster is there.”
Bogdanos, however, likes the legislative proposal.
“I agree with that 100 percent,” he said. “There should be somebody on the school grounds who is properly trained to carry a gun.”
The best person for that, according to school security expert Michael Dorn, is a trained law enforcement officer. He told Hillsborough school board members at a workshop earlier this week that such a provision might make sense in rural, more isolated districts where it could be 30 minutes before police arrive at a school after a shooting.
Bogdanos said the course is less about guns in schools and more about just teaching teachers about weapons.
“I think people are afraid of their gun rights being infringed upon,” he said. “They want to be educated.”
The course, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Safety Harbor VFW Post, will teach people how to handle, store, lock and fire a handgun. It meets the minimum criteria required to obtain a concealed weapons permit in Florida.
For information on the course, visit www.cwp911.com