Lake County school board majority against proposal to arm teachers, principals

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - It’s official:  Lake County will not be considering giving guns to teachers or principals to protect schools.

In wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Conn., board member Bill Mathias said he believed the best way to keep students in the district's 20 elementary schools safe was to arm principals with handguns as an alternative course of action.

But on Monday, three out of five school board members shot down the proposal.

Channel 9’s Berndt Petersen was at the special meeting, and said there were plenty of parents in attendance who supported the proposal, which Mathias called the “defender initiative.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s the only course of action,” Mathias said, defending his proposal. “It wasn’t meant to cause this much excitement."

About 50 people packed into the meeting, and parents spoke out for nearly an hour.

“The only effective way to protect anyone, including our kids, from a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun,” said parent Andy DuBois.

“There is no way I’d arm teachers and staff with a gun at school,” said parent Theo Bob.

School board member Rosanne Brandeburg said teachers she talked to didn’t want the proposal to move forward.

“She went on to say that if we were going to go along with this idea, she would resign,” Brandeburg said of one teacher.

Board member Debbie Stivender was one of the other board members to vote against the proposal.

“My son is a member of the NRA.  I also have a gun at home.  It’s our right.  But the school is not where guns need to be,” she said.

Mathias says it wasn’t his intention to cause so much controversy, but he still defended his proposal.

“The reality is it was between five and 15 minutes to respond.  You can kill an awful lot of children in five to 15 minutes,” he said.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office has since put a deputy in every elementary school after the tragedy in Connecticut, but there’s no agreement between the sheriff, the school system or the county commission on how much longer those officers will be present.