Lake County School Board debates arming teachers

Meeting held to discuss proposal by school board member

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Lake County school officials met on Monday to discuss the proposal by a school board member to arm teachers, but the proposal didn't appear to get much support from other board members.

Three of the five members found littler support for the controversial proposal after discussing the idea with teachers and administrators.

"I have not had any of them say that they want to be toting guns, I'm not for that," said Debbie Stivender, a school board member.

Bill Mathias proposed the voluntary plan last week in response to the fatal mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school and garnered national attention. The school district would purchase the guns and then pay for the teachers to be trained by the Lake County Sheriff's Office, according to Mathias.

The teachers would also have to pass a psychological exam before they would become auxiliary law enforcement officers and carrying guns around campus or keep them in storage safes at the school.

The school board listened to more than a dozen people Monday afternoon, including parents, grandparents, former teachers and other residents on both sides of the controversial idea.

"Simply because as much as we like to think we can handle those situations, with my background, I'm not sure I could handle that situation," said former Army captain and longtime educator Theo Bob. "In my opinion, that's for trained police officers."

But for some parents, arming teachers would be the quickest way to stop a threat and keep students safe.

"In my opinion, the only effective way to protect anyone from a bad guy with a gun is good guys with guns," said Andy DuBois, who has three grandchildren.

Mathias says the plan would have focused on elementary schools and then be applied to the middle and high school levels. After the meeting, Mathias told Local 6 he won't pursue the proposal any further because of the lack of support, but instead will find other plans to improve school safety.

"I put a position out there that if it turns out that no one's in support of, then no, that's not something I'm going to support," said Mathias. "But I am going to stay vigilant on the fact that we need to have at least a plan."

Some of the other ideas proposed during Monday's workshop included having retired law enforcement officers or members of the military protect school campuses.

Another idea that could be proposed would be installing bulletproof glass in schools or redesigning future schools to make it more difficult for a gunman to get on campus.

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