TEACHERS WITH GUNS

Should teachers be armed? … Yes? … No? … Why?

 

CONTENT:

  • Teachers and guns: Inside a firearm training where educators learn to take down shooters
  • Teachers with guns? The idea is back, but many Florida educators still say no thanks.
    Many school officials who opposed the idea of arming teachers when it first came up haven’t changed their views, even as the issue resurfaces.
  • Parkland school massacre panel recommends arming teachers.
  • DeVos gives quiet nod to arming teachers, despite hearing from many who disagree.
  • North Carolina teachers who carry guns to school could get a pay raise under a new bill.

 

Teachers and guns: Inside a firearm training

where educators learn to take down shooters

by Kalhan Rosenblatt / 

“I need to have that weapon on me at all times in case something would happen,” an Ohio teacher said.

“I know the other teachers feel the same way.”

 

On a recent morning in Newcomerstown, Ohio, a row of teachers stood in a line with guns drawn and moved slowly toward a row of steel plate targets. As the teachers advanced, bullets pinged off the metal with each round they fired.

The teachers had come to take part in Faster Saves Lives, a voluntary training program run by an Ohio-based nonprofit that has taught more than 1,300 school staff members to carry and use firearms since 2013. (Faster stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response.)

“My students are my kids, basically, and I want to be able to protect them just like I would protect my own son,” said a 34-year-old Ohio teacher of students with special needs who participated in the program and spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern that by going public, she or her school could be targeted by a shooter.

The teacher is one of 400 who will be trained by Faster this year, said Joe Eaton, the program director for Faster. Even before the Parkland shooting in February, classes were filling up within 24 hours. Since then, Eaton has scheduled four extra classes in response to the high demand.

“Schools are realizing they have to have a plan for themselves of how to save lives until the professionals get there,” Eaton said.

Image: A teacher learns to use a firearm in Newcomerstown, Ohio

A teacher learns to use a firearm in Newcomerstown, Ohio.NBC News

As state legislatures and school boards across the country grapple with arming teachers in the wake of recent school shootings, a growing number of districts have sought to train their staff, and Faster’s leaders are in talks to expand their regular trainings into 12 other states beyond Ohio. Despite concerns from insurance companies, gun-control advocates and many teachers who say that arming educators will make schools more dangerous, the number of trained teachers is likely to continue to grow.

 

Over the past several months, as the toll of school shootings has risen, many districts have either approved of or are considering proposals to arm teachers.

“Even people who say, ‘We don’t want guns in our schools,’ well, when an event happens, you’re calling the police and you’re hoping they bring guns,” said Jim Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Foundation, a pro-gun group that runs the Faster training in Ohio.

Talk of arming teachers began shortly after the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999, and intensified after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012, according to the Education Commission of the States, which tracks education policy.

Before the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 18 states allowed adults to carry weapons on school grounds with the permission of the principal or school board, while dozens of districts allowed teachers to be armed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

After the Parkland shooting, the debate heated up, particularly after President Donald Trump came out in favor of arming teachers. As of last week, at least 17 bills related to arming school staff had been proposed in 10 states over the past four months, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Of those, only one bill in Florida has been enacted. Most of the bills have failed, while two remain still pending.

“We all share a common bond, and that is we want action to prevent another shooting like what happened at Santa Fe High School,” Abbott said at a news conference after a meeting with students, teachers and school officials.

 

Ohio is one of the states where a teacher can bring a gun to school with the approval of a principal or district. Some districts, like Sidney City School District in the western part of the state, requires firearms to be kept locked in biometric safes, until they are needed in an emergency. The Ohio special needs teacher who completed the Faster program this spring said she’s hoping she’ll be able to carry a gun with her as she moves from classroom to classroom throughout the school day.

“I need to have that weapon on me at all times in case something would happen,” she said. “I know the other teachers feel the same way.”

Not all teachers agree. In a letter to Trump after the Parkland shooting, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said America’s classrooms are no place for guns.

“Teachers don’t want to be armed, we want to teach,” Weingarten wrote. “We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.'”

Some experts are skeptical about the value of arming teachers and say it could distract students.

Adam Winkler, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who specializes in the Second Amendment and gun control, said he believes that bringing guns into the classroom “will have a severe impact on learning,” but will not have any effect on the number of mass shootings.

“There is no evidence to show that arming teachers will see a reduction of mass shootings — we’ve seen them occur on campuses where there are armed security personnel,” Winkler said, adding that he hoped there was not an increase in accidental school shootings. Even states that have allowed teachers to have firearms on campus have run into hurdles.

 

In Kansas, a 2013 law allows school staff members to be armed after the Sandy Hook shooting, but no public school employee has brought a gun to school because the insurance company that covers most school districts in the state said it would not insure schools that allowed staff to carry concealed handguns.

“It is a situation where legislators who didn’t know anything about insurance are making rules that won’t work,” Kansas state Sen. Lynn Rogers, who opposed the law, previously told NBC News.

In some Ohio districts, uniformed and armed officers cost $100,000 per person to insure, according to The New York Times. It is unclear what it will cost to insure trained teachers.But Irvine, who runs the group that oversees Faster, said he believes this is the only way forward to protect school children. “We protect things of value with armed security,” he said, “and our children are our most precious resource.”

Áine Pennello reported from Ohio, and Kalhan Rosenblatt, Daniella Silva and Farnoush Amiri reported from New York

 

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Teachers with guns? The idea is back, but many Florida educators still say no thanks.
Many school officials who opposed the idea of arming teachers when it first came up haven’t changed their views, even as the issue resurfaces.

In this 2012 photo, Cori Sorensen, a fourth-grade teacher in Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor during a concealed weapons training for 200 teachers. Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers decided not to authorize teachers to have weapons in school but the issue has resurfaced and is likely to be discussed again in 2019. [Associated Press]
In this 2012 photo, Cori Sorensen, a fourth-grade teacher in Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor during a concealed weapons training for 200 teachers. Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers decided not to authorize teachers to have weapons in school but the issue has resurfaced and is likely to be discussed again in 2019. [Associated Press]

By Jeffrey S. Solochek
Published November 30

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri made big news over Thanksgiving break when, as chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, he announced that he now sees value in having armed teachers in schools.

His change of heart on the issue, along with his plan to recommend lawmakers allow willing teachers to carry guns, has prompted Florida educators to revisit a debate that raged in the spring as the idea first surfaced.

Most did not like the concept before. And with few exceptions, they don’t like it now, either.

“I think you’re going to have a difficult time finding people to take on the responsibility,” said Hillsborough County School Board member Cindy Stuart, who called the notion of arming teachers “absolutely crazy.” Colleagues shared her view, saying they would not consider changing their priority of having trained law enforcement and guards to protect the schools.

“I don’t support teachers carrying guns, just as I don’t support security officers teaching students,” Hillsborough board chairwoman Tamara Shamburger said.

Newly elected Pasco County School Board member Megan Harding worked as an elementary school teacher until her swearing in. She said she could not imagine having a gun in her classroom.

“I have spoken to a lot of my (teaching) colleagues. That’s not what they want to do either. … That’s not a teacher’s job,” Harding said. “Our district has gone the right direction with armed security guards and (school resource officers).”

Pasco school superintendent Kurt Browning suggested that arming teachers could create added responsibilities and safety concerns for teachers and students, which he did not want to bring into the schools.

Such as the possibility of a student gaining access to a teacher’s weapon. Or a teacher accidentally dropping a gun that goes off in the classroom.

“Those are issues I don’t want to have to worry about,” Pinellas County School Board chairwoman Rene Flowers said. “We’re supposed to be about teaching.”

Let law enforcement deal with the security issues, she added.

Hernando County School Board vice chairwoman Linda Prescott harbored similar worries.

“How do we know the good guys from the bad guys” in a real-time incident, asked Prescott, whose district has officers in every school.

She added that her husband, a retired military veteran, told her one of the hardest things to do is to teach someone to kill. And teachers would not be trained like soldiers.

“Shooting at a target is a whole lot different than shooting at a human being,” Prescott said.

That psychological component is a critical piece in considering who should be guarding the schools, Collier County superintendent Kamela Patton said.

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“People don’t stop and think, ‘Let me put on a vest,'” she said. “I’m concerned about a teacher with a gun getting shot. … Why would you set up a situation for anything like that?”

That’s not to say educators won’t protect their students, said Alachua County School Board member Leanetta McNealy, who was a teacher and principal before joining the board.

“We would put our lives down for our children,” she said. “But we do not want to pull the trigger.”

Lawmakers should take other steps to keep classrooms safe, suggested United Teachers of Dade president Karla Hernandez-Mats.

“They should instead invest in our children by providing the counselors and preventative mental health programs they need to help them deal with the stresses they are facing on the daily basis,” Hernandez-Mats said.

Bay County school superintendent Bill Husfelt was among the few whose district already has some teachers carrying guns, after being trained and screened by the local Sheriff’s Office.

He acknowledged that some teachers would not want to ever be armed, and others should not be. But as someone who once faced a gunman while attending a School Board meeting, Husfelt contended that any possible steps to enhance defenses should be considered.

“I support whatever measures we have to take in order to promote the professional protection of our students, faculty and staff members,” he said. “I do not believe we just need to hand out guns to anyone who wants them but I believe in vetting, training and arming those who feel called to take on this responsibility.”

During debate this week over legislative priorities at the Florida School Boards Association fall conference in Tampa, Flowers raised the issue of arming teachers with her counterparts from across the state.

One concern that quickly surfaced is the possibility that lawmakers, in refining school security laws, might mandate arming teachers rather than making it optional.

“I think the Legislature would see a push back like no other,” Flowers said.

Kim McDougal, formerly Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff, told the group she did not anticipate such a dramatic step. But Ruth Melton, governmental affairs director for the school boards association, said the idea might come up, and she expects the issue to be heavily debated during the legislative session.
Stuart, of the Hillsborough School Board, lamented that the idea of arming teachers is even a discussion point. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., she noted, money was no object as the government created a transportation security agency.

They didn’t try to arm everyone getting on a plane and tell them to stay safe, she said.

“It’s sad that those in charge of creating laws and funding say it’s too expensive to put law enforcement in schools, and are putting this in the hands of teachers,” Stuart said.

The Public Safety Commission’s final report is due in early 2019.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at jsolochek@tampabay.com. Follow @jeffsolochek.

 

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Parkland school massacre panel recommends arming teachers

Posted: 7:10 AM, Dec 13, 2018
Updated: 5:13 AM, Dec 13, 2018

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission voted 13-1 to recommend the Legislature allow the arming of teachers, saying it’s not enough to have one or two police officers or armed guards on campus. Florida law adopted after the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead allows districts to arm non-teaching staff members such as principals, librarians and custodians — 13 of the 67 districts do, mostly in rural parts of the state.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission’s chairman, pushed the measure at the Tallahassee meeting. He said most deaths in school shootings happen within the first few minutes, before officers on and off campus can respond. He said suspect Nikolas Cruz stopped to reload his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle five times, all of which would have been opportunities for an armed teacher to shoot him.

“We have to give people a fighting chance, we have to give them an opportunity to protect themselves,” Gualtieri said. He said there aren’t enough officers or money to hire one for every school, but even then officers need backup. “One good guy with a gun on campus is not enough.”

The state teachers union and PTA have previously expressed opposition, saying teachers are hired to educate, not be police officers.

Commissioner Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son Alex died in the massacre, cast the lone vote against the motion. He said the state should focus on hiring more police officers for campuses and allowing non-teaching staff to carry guns.

“We do need more good guys with a gun on campus — nobody understands that and wishes we had more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas than myself,” Schachter said. But arming teachers “creates a host of problems.” The father and wife of other victims, who are not on the commission, also spoke against arming teachers.

After the shooting, Florida law was changed to allow school districts to train and arm employees other than teachers except those who are former or current police officers, current members of the military or Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructors.

Currently, teachers in 28 states can carry firearms, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, a conservative nonprofit organization. District approval is required in most states and restrictions and training requirements vary.

The 15-member commission, which has been meeting periodically since April, will present a report to Gov. Rick Scott, incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature by Jan. 1.

The commission includes law enforcement, education and mental health professionals, a legislator and the fathers of two slain students.

Also Wednesday, a judge rejected former Stoneman Douglas campus deputy Scot Peterson’s contention that he had no obligation to confront Cruz.

Refusing to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the parent of a victim, Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning found after a hearing that Peterson did have a duty to protect those inside the school. Video and other evidence shows Peterson, the only armed officer at the school, remained outside while shots rang out.

The negligence lawsuit was filed by Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed. Pollack said it made no sense for Peterson’s attorneys to argue that a sworn law enforcement officer with a badge and a gun had no requirement to go inside.

“Then what is he doing there?” Pollack said after the ruling. “He had a duty. I’m not going to let this go. My daughter, her death is not going to be in vain.”

Peterson attorney Michael Piper said he understands that people might be offended or outraged at his client’s defense, but he argued that as a matter of law, the deputy had no duty to confront the shooter. Peterson did not attend the hearing.

“There is no legal duty that can be found,” Piper said. “At its very worst, Scot Peterson is accused of being a coward. That does not equate to bad faith.”

The commission voted Wednesday to condemn Peterson’s actions, calling him “derelict” in his duties.

Cruz, a 20-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student, has pleaded not guilty, but his lawyers have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

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DeVos gives quiet nod to arming teachers, despite hearing

from many who disagree

Dozens of current or retired teachers, parents and education experts argued against the idea of arming teachers during a DOE “listening tour.”
President Donald Trump listens as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks discusses the Federal Commission on School Safety report

President Donald Trump listens as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos discusses the Federal Commission on School Safety report at the White House on Dec. 18, 2018.Evan Vucci / AP

 
By Heidi Przybyla, Laura Strickler and Suzy Khimm

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s new school safety report, released Tuesday, encourages districts to consider arming school personnel, praises state programs that arm teachers and suggests that schools could use federal funds to train staff to use firearms. But the report does so quietly, after the idea of arming teachers faced fierce opposition, including during the Federal Commission on School Safety’s two-month “listening tour” in some of the nation’s reddest states.

The long-awaited report from the commission, chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, does not explicitly recommend that schools provide teachers with firearms, but lauds various state programs that arm teachers. Stressing the need for specially trained school personnel to respond to “acts of violence,” the commission commends divisive initiatives that allow teachers and other staff members to carry guns in South DakotaTexas and Arkansas for offering “effective training programs,” according to the report.

An Education Department official, who asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the report was a clear endorsement of arming teachers.

“When the department provides information on best practices, it does so for schools to conduct those practices,” he said. “They are very direct about the idea of arming teachers, saying, ‘This is what you should do.’”

The Education Department denied that the federal government is telling states to arm teachers. The department’s recommendations reflect “practices that are already working in many communities across the country,” spokesperson Liz Hill said. “The commission’s goal has been to identify state and local practices and policies for lawmakers and local officials to learn from and consider, rather than mandating or dictating solutions.”

The report’s tacit endorsement of arming teachers comes after a national “listening tour” of predominantly red states that was at the heart of the commission’s work. The tour started in June in Washington, and then visited seven states, including Wyoming, Kentucky and Alabama. An NBC News review of the transcripts from those sessions found that even in those states, which have a strong gun culture, the broad consensus against arming teachers was clear among those who attended the sessions.

Dozens of current or retired teachers, parents and education experts argued against the idea of arming teachers, the transcripts show. (The commission did not post transcripts for the listening sessions that took place in Nevada, Wisconsin and Arkansas, and the Education Department declined to release the written comments it received.)

At a listening session in Montgomery, Alabama, Adam Jortner, an Auburn University professor of history who called himself “a passionate defender of the Second Amendment,” strongly argued against giving teachers firearms.

“I am here today to ask you and to advocate that we should not be arming teachers,” said Jortner, noting that it “will break the bonds of our community and will not protect our Second Amendment rights.”

In Kentucky, a retired middle school teacher, Willow Hambrick, had a similar message: “Arm us, instead, with the mental health support that is needed. Arm us with increasing, not decreasing, funds for mental health care. And arm us with smaller class sizes, and ways to fight poverty. And give us common-sense gun control.”

But few participants advocated for schools to arm teachers or other staff members, according to the publicly available transcripts of the tour. Jillian Balow, Wyoming’s superintendent of public instruction, emphasized the importance of “citizen sentinels” in lieu of law enforcement in rural communities.

The most forceful support came from the Wyoming-based owner of a private security firm that provides firearms training to educators.

After DeVos’ commission released its final report on Tuesday, some of the listening tour participants said they were concerned about its recommendations. “These people want to put guns in these kids’ schools,” said Jortner, the Auburn professor. “They’re going to arm teachers, and more kids are going to die of firearm misuse because of this report.”

DeVos did not participate in the public listening sessions around the country, but instead sent her deputies, according to Hill, the department spokesperson. The secretary attended meetings of the commission in Washington and met with experts on mental health, entertainment, cyberbullying and other issues that her report recommended addressing as well.

DeVos’ report also explained that schools could use federal money to train personnel to use firearms, pointing to school security funds known as Justice Assistance Grants. “JAG funds may support firearms training for school personnel so long as the training is part of an allowable prevention and education program,” the report said.

Some legal and gun control experts say such language could lead schools to conclude that federal funds could be used for teacher firearm training. “Does the report endorse the use of federal dollars to train teachers to carry and use guns in schools? I think the answer is unquestionably yes,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun safety research and advocacy group.

President Trump advocated for teachers to be armed in the wake of February’s massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, eliciting an outcry from gun safety advocates, educators and law enforcement experts. In August, DeVos cleared the way for states to use another federal grant, known as Title IV funding, on guns in schools, while stressing — as with her commission’s new report — that the federal government is not mandating them to do so.

These moves are “providing support for individuals in school districts where there are different views on this — they can say, ‘Hey look, the federal government is saying this is what they should do,’” said the Education Department official who declined to be named. And in some parts of the country, the call to arm teachers has been rising.

In Texas, the state trains teachers who want to carry guns in schools. In 2017, the state trained just 11 teachers; but after school shootings in Parkland and Santa Fe, Texas, they trained 150 teachers in 2018, according to Gretchen Grigsby, director of government relations for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which oversees public security officers.

In Ohio, firearms training group FASTER Saves Lives already has eight classes for teachers scheduled for June 2019, after its classes filled up in just 24 hours last January, said program director Joe Eaton.

The vast majority of educators, however, remain opposed to the idea of arming teachers, polls show.

The National Education Association surveyed 1,000 members in March on ways to make schools safer. Eighty-two percent said they would not carry a gun in school, including 63 percent of those who own a gun. Sixty-four percent of those in gun-owning households oppose arming teachers.

 

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North Carolina teachers who carry guns to school

could get a pay raise under a new bill

Kids learn what to do if gunman comes to school 01:08

(CNN)North Carolina lawmakers are once again pushing to arm teachers with guns, and they’re trying to make it worth teachers’ while.

Filed on Wednesday, the School Security Act of 2019 would give a 5% salary boost to teachers who undergo basic police training.
These “teacher resource officers” could carry guns in an open or concealed manner, and they would have the same arrest powers as police officers, the bill says.
Most public schools in North Carolina already have a certified police officer, known as a school resource officer, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction said.
 
  
Republican State Sen. Warren Daniel, one of the bill’s sponsors, told CNN the proposal “is a way to put a lot of security on the ground in our schools.”
He added, “It’s extremely costly to put a school resource officer in every school … and there’s a great shortage of the number of applicants to law enforcement agencies. This bill is an attempt to bridge that gap.”
Daniel and two other Republican lawmakers introduced the same bill last session, but it died in committee.
A similar bill to arm teachers has been proposed in the state House this year, but it does not include a pay raise.

Most teachers are against the idea

The National Education Association found in a 2018 poll that an overwhelming majority of teachers would not want to carry a gun in school.
Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, called the bill “a disaster waiting to happen.”
“We don’t need firearms in our schools,” Jewell told CNN. “Guns could endanger both students and other adults in the building.”
He said the organization supports improving structures and taking other security measures to keep out people who want to do harm.
“Teachers need to be armed with support specialists such as psychologists, counselors and nurses to address the social, emotional and psychological health needs of our students,” Jewell added.
 

GRAPHIC GUN CONTENT HERE