Columbia County Report: School board mulling ways to make schools safer through ‘Guardian’ Program

The school board gathered public input and determined that arming teachers is not within their best interest
The school board gathered public input and determined that arming teachers is not within their best interest
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:20 PM EDT
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LAKE CITY, Fla. (WCJB) - Columbia County Schools are working on solutions to make schools safer.

“You can’t learn when you’re worried about being shot,” said Joyce Burnsed, the grandparent of a Columbia County Schools student.

Burnsed said her granddaughter used to love school.

But with gun violence in schools on the rise, she says she is now afraid to go.

“She’s afraid of being shot,” said Burnsed, “killed, her best friend’s being killed. She has anxiety to the point that she has to go to doctors now, and that’s not what this town was about. This is not how school should be for these children.”

Now the Columbia County School board is working on how to help curb these feelings among children.

The board held a meeting Tuesday to discuss options to make schools safer.

After hearing input from the public at Tuesday’s meeting, the Board decided to not pursue option that would give teacher’s guns in schools.

“Adding the responsibility to teachers,” said CCS’s director of safe schools, Judy Tatem, “they have so much on their plate already. They’re here to educate our students, in doing that they protect our students, but that higher level of protection needs to be somebody that is well trained and ready to take that responsibility.”

“Teachers,” said Burnsed, “they don’t want to be armed. They’re there to teach. They don’t have to worry about pulling a gun, that’s not what they signed up for.”

Several options have been discussed, but Tatem says one proposal seems to have the most momentum.

“Hiring a separate person to be a single guardian,” said Tatem, “that is their sole responsibility. We are not interested in hiring teachers or anything else to do with our schools in general. It would be a separate individual.

“Educators are strictly educators,” said Tatem. “We need somebody that is trained as a guardian and has that mindset to prevent active assailants.”

Burnsed said she is not sure of the best solution, but something must be done.

“I think that would help,” said Burnsed, “everything would help in turn. I just think they need to come up with a way without our children feeling like they’re going inside of a prison to learn.”

However, she is afraid it may just be a temporary fix.

“I think security at the school would be helpful,” said Burnsed, “it might calm some of their fears but there’s just so much that really needs to be done.”

The board will now begin holding meetings to iron out the details of how to make the ‘Guardian’ Program work.

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