After months of holding workshop discussions about adopting a school guardian program, the Flagler County School Board voted down a resolution to put the program into effect.
The motion that would put concealed weapons in the hands of school staff members failed 3-2 at the board's meeting on June 20.
Board members Sally Hunt, Colleen Conklin and Cheryl Massaro all said the school district was not ready yet for the program in voting against the resolution.
Hunt said she is in favor of a guardian program in some form but was not comfortable with the concealed carry option "where our staff, our parents and our students walk around campus not knowing who has a deadly weapon with them."
Hunt said, "I find that very unsettling. I think a lot of people find that very unsettling."
Will Furry and Christy Chong supported the resolution, which would have allowed the Flagler County Sheriff's Office to apply for a grant to help offset the cost of training the guardians.
Currently, School Resource Deputies, supplied by the FCSO, carry weapons on school campuses. The guardians would also carry a weapon with the sole purpose of thwarting an active assailant. They would have no other law enforcement authority.
A school guardian would serve as a force multiplier for additional security and safety, according to the resolution. Guardians would be volunteers who are full-time district employees. They would undergo 144 hours of training provided by the FSCO, a psychological evaluation and drug testing.
The resolution would direct the district's superintendent to draft policies and procedures for the program. But the board does not expect to have a new permanent superintendent in place until Jan. 1, 2024.
Furry said the concealed carry model acts as a deterrent to would-be assailants.
"Our campuses are very large. It takes time to respond to a situation like this, and every second counts," he said. "I can't think of why we wouldn't want extra support for our SRDs."
But Conklin said she felt uncomfortable adopting a resolution without having policies in place. She was also uneasy about having staff members without prior law enforcement experience carrying weapons on school campuses.
She said she would prefer one of the other, costlier, guardian options of adding more SRDs or hiring private armed security.
Board Chair Massaro said that when Suwannee County School representatives presented their concealed-weapon guardian model to the board, it wasn't what she expected.
"In my mind, we were only going to find ex-military people that have awareness of guns, and they were going to be our guardians. That is not the case in this model," she said.
She said 60% of Suwannee's guardians are women. Suwannee's program took time to get buy-in from everybody, Massaro said.
"That's the only way this kind of program actually does work," Massaro added. "I agree with Ms. Hunt, we're not necessarily there yet."
Both Massaro and Conklin said they were concerned about the possibility of guardians having their guns stolen from them.
Furry said approving the resolution would allow the program to begin in the 2024-25 school year.
"There is plenty of time to build this program, and to have this discussion, because we're going to build a policy around this, but it has to start at some point," Furry said.