The Escambia County School Board on Tuesday night approved an emergency rule prohibiting students from carrying a weapon in a vehicle on a school campus.
Florida law states that it is technically legal for anyone 18 or older to have a lawfully concealed firearm in their vehicle, except when a school board approves an exception to the law for students.
The school district currently has rules against a weapon in a vehicle on campus, but until Tuesday night, a violation would only result in school disciplinary action. With the state of emergency, law enforcement now had the power to arrest a student for possession of a weapon on campus.
As NorthEscambia.com first reported earlier this month, the district had proposed a much broader emergency rule that would apply to everyone except law enforcement. order and school security personnel.
According to council lawyer Elle Odom, there have been two major changes between the state of emergency as it was first presented and the one envisaged on Tuesday evening. She said the biggest change limits the impact to students only, and the second only allows school tutors or contracted security personnel to have additional firearms secured in their vehicle without it being a violation of the law.
“I understand that a number of concerns have been raised by members of the public as to whether or not they would be affected by this when they concealed transport permits. Not just members of the public, but also our employees,” said District 4 School Board Member Patty Hightower.
“I feel like we’re covering the concerns I’ve heard from the public,” District 5 board member Bill Slayton said, “and we’re mostly covering the concerns I have for safety students.”
A motion from Hightower and a second from Slayton, the council approved the emergency order 4-0 in the absence of Dr Laura Edler.
Hightower said she supports the state of emergency, but wants to have a much broader conversation in the future about preventing people other than students from carrying a gun on a school campus.
“I am very concerned that firearms are being carried by anyone except law enforcement and our campus security on our school grounds,” Hightower said. “I understand people’s right to bear arms, but these are our students, and these are our schools, and I’m really concerned about their safety.”
The emergency rule approved Tuesday evening will be in place for up to 90 days while the district works on a permanent rule following a formal rule-making and publicity process.
The school board took action after a gun was found inside a vehicle on the Tate High School campus last month.
An AR-15 rifle along with four magazines and 34 rounds was found Feb. 15 inside an 18-year-old student’s truck while it was parked on campus, and the student was suspended. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said it was determined in consultation with the state’s attorney’s office that no laws were broken because the school district never approved a waiver as the current state of emergency.
The student and a 16-year-old were later charged with grand theft of a firearm after the gun was reported stolen.
Photos from NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.