Bay District Schools finds success with Guardian Program
To keep students safe, Bay District Schools adopted the Guardian Program almost two years ago.
"The superintendent and the board have taken all the steps necessary and above and beyond to protect our children, and this is one way," said Chief of Safety and Security at Bay District Schools Mike Jones.
The October 1 Guardian Program law allows teachers and other district staff to carry weapons on school grounds, as long as they have the proper certification. But Bay District Schools was one of the few counties in Florida to begin the program before this school year.
"They have to go through a lot of training. It's about 140 hours of firearms training, and that's probably more than the law enforcement gets," said Jones.
While the 2010 school board shooting impacted the district's decision to arm staff, they say it's not why they decided to take the leap with the Guardian Program.
"The incident in Parkland, it was what spurred this and it opened a lot of people's eyes. We had a lot of people's eyes opened after our shooting here, but not to that point. Parkland drove it over the edge," said Jones.
According to the Florida Department of Education website, 39 out of the 67 counties in Florida currently participate in the Guardian Program.
Jackson County Schools began training employees in August, while seven other counties in our area also picked up the program.
"I think response time is critical and having someone on campus, or individuals on campus, that are prepared and trained to deal with an active shooter situation," said Superintendent of Jackson County Schools Larry Moore.
Bay District Schools officials say while controversial, they believe they made the right choice.
We asked the district how many teachers had received certification to be armed on campus and while they couldn't give us a specific number, they said it was "a good amount."