Forson: ‘I am not in support of teachers carrying weapons’

SJCSD superintendent addresses school safety at local Rotary club


St. Johns County School District (SJCSD) Superintendent Tim Forson told the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach last week that he does not support arming teachers in the wake of the Parkland shooting.  

“I am not in support of teachers carrying weapons,” said Forson at the club’s March 15 meeting at Marsh Landing Country Club. “That wasn’t part of the contract—the written contract, the social contract, the emotional contract — for an educator.”

What the superintendent does support is the addition of a professional to every school campus who can be responsive to a threat.

Forson told the local Rotarians that there will be a commitment to such a safety effort by next school year, noting that he and Sheriff David Shoar have developed a joint committee to work through the matter. Forson is expecting funds from the state to support these efforts. 

“I think the answer is having someone at every campus who can be responsive and has the understanding, wherewithal, training and ability to be reactive,” said the superintendent. “It [a shooting] typically happens in three to five minutes. It’s gotta be a single focus and someone who responds to that piece of it.”

Forson told the Rotary club that he is also expecting funds from the state to help fortify the district’s facilities. He said SJCSD is already well ahead of other districts here because many of its facilities were built post-Columbine.

The district superintendent said that the community will not necessarily eliminate the threat, however, unless more attention is paid to mental health, which he noted is at the heart of the national problem. Within the schools, Forson said educators must focus on building and enabling relationships, both teacher-to-student and student-to-student relationships. He cited programs that exist today in SJCSD schools that connect older and younger students to help the younger students transition into new environments, as examples.

Forson said he also expects state funding for mental health support, but he doesn’t anticipate a mental health professional being added to every school. Instead, he said mental health must be addressed community-wide, both inside and outside of the schools.

Overall, the superintendent said a different level of concern has developed after the Parkland shooting, and action must be taken locally to protect students, because nowhere is immune from the threat.  

“This is not to scare anybody, but Parkland, Florida, is Ponte Vedra, Florida,” he said. “A lot of times, we think it’s the most diverse schools. It’s the schools where there may be conflicts and challenges. No, it’s anywhere. We have to be conscious of the fact that everyone could be at risk.”