TALLAHASSEE — Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor is blasting the “school marshal” program to put armed teachers in Florida classrooms now gaining momentum in the Legislature.
In a letter dated Feb. 26 from his District 1 office, Proctor warned legislative leaders “the unarmed children of black taxpayers will become nothing more than target practice,” for what he called “trigger happy school teachers” — an assertion angrily rejected by Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna.
"Arming scary and fearful teachers who are afraid of black boys and who dislike black boys is a formula for disaster that tragically will disproportionately see countless numbers of black children fall victim to potential trigger happy school teachers," Proctor wrote.
In his letter Proctor appears to highlight an issue touched on by some black legislators during Tuesday's House committee debate. Some Democratic lawmakers tried to amend the marshal program proposal to ease fears about the Stand Your Ground Law and a "cultural bias" that they believe puts minority students at risk.
Proctor pointed to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat detailing a drastic disparity in the rates of out-of-school suspensions given to black and white students in local schools. The disparity "suggests black school children will more likely be victims of gun shootings and gun deaths at the hands of their white school teachers,” wrote Proctor, who teaches political science at Florida A&M University.
He insisted under the program, teachers will have “law enforcement-police status.”
Superintendent Hanna was not having it. His objection is not to Proctor's plea that legislator's not support arming teachers — Hanna has been outspoken against that concept. At Tuesday's school board meeting, he said, "If you're going to carry a weapon (on a campus), in my opinion, you're going to have a badge. You're going to be an officer of the law."
Rather, Hanna took issue with Proctor's disparaging comments about the district's teachers and their character. He issued a strongly-worded statement demanding an apology from Proctor on behalf of the educators he has worked with for nearly three decades.
“Commissioner Bill Proctor should be ashamed of himself for the letter he sent to legislative leaders yesterday. He should immediately apologize to the thousands of teachers in Leon County, including my wife, who wake up every day to make a difference in the lives of students — no matter the color of their skin,” Hanna said.
“Bill Proctor is nothing more than a schoolyard bully who uses militant tactics and temper tantrums to advance his agenda. His rhetoric is an embarrassment to our community,” the statement concludes.