Signs Warn About 'Deadly Force' at Florida Schools: 'Teachers Are Armed'

A school district in the Florida panhandle stirred controversy overnight after signs were placed around all public schools warning that staff members are armed and willing to use "deadly force."

Gulf District Schools Superintendent Jim Norton told Newsweek that the signs are placed on all entrances of each school in Gulf County as one line of defense against potential armed intruders.

"Staff members are ARMED and TRAINED," the sign read. "Any attempt to harm children will be met with Deadly Force."

Gun Violence at Schools

According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, there were a reported 251 shootings at K-12 schools in 2021, up from 114 in 2020. Since January 2022, there have been 177 reported shootings.

Signs at Florida schools stir controversy
The left image shows a picture of the front door of Port St. Joe Elementary School located in Port St. Joe, Florida. The right image is of the front door of Port St. Joe High School. A Floridian school district caused controversy after posting the signs around the county schools. Courtesy of Gulf District Schools Superintendent Jim Norton

Data presented by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) School Shooting Safety Compendium–which is no longer associated with CHDS, provides resources and data regarding violence in schools–nearly 64 percent of school shootings occur at high schools and about 18 percent in elementary schools.

About 20 percent of perpetrators have no relation to the school, with about 43 percent being current students.

The Signs

After a picture of a sign outside of Wewahitchka High School was posted on Facebook, Norton said he began to receive thousands of messages about the controversial language.

Norton said he got the idea for the signs after initially seeing them online last year and thought it would be a good idea. Many of the comments on the post were in support of the signs, with some saying more schools should have them.

"Those signs that you see are a drop in the bucket to what we try to do to harden and protect our schools," Norton said. "There is nothing more important on this earth than to protect and educate our children, and my job is to do both. There's not a single parent alive that doesn't agree with that."

'It's Unfortunate'

The county is part of the state's school guardian program, along with 30 other counties in Florida, which trains school staff to be armed and prepared to stop an active shooter.

"We're a guardian school," Norton said. "The Florida legislature gave us the ability to train and arm educators in a schoolhouse."

He added that he believes Aaron Feis—the football coach who protected students during the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 individuals—should have been armed.

"We knew he had the will to go and stop that depraved crazy nut but he didn't have a gun to go and stop him with," Norton said. "Flesh and bones are gonna lose out to bullets every time."

The hope with the signs—according to Norton—is that they deter a potential threat from entering the premises.

"It's unfortunate we live in a day and time that some of this type of stuff is necessary," Norton said. "Those signs are not there for the good people. It's for somebody that may walk up to the back door, the last thing they do is read that statement that stares them back in the face."