Emerging Issues in Security

Ohio School District Allows Teachers, Staff to Be Armed

In what is a growing trend in some school districts across the United States, the school board for the Georgetown Village School District in Georgetown, Ohio, voted to allow its teachers and staff to be armed at work. All staff members who want to participate in this program will go through a 3-day firearms certification class.

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The Georgetown Village School District joins over 40 other school districts in Ohio that allow for concealed carry of a firearm by certified teachers or staff. Supporters of this security approach argue that it supplements the expected law enforcement response to school shooting incidents in a way that may save lives or at least buy time for the police to get to the campus. The Georgetown Board said the idea was originally initiated by some concerned parents.

The Hanover School District in rural Colorado voted last December to allow its teachers and staff to be armed. The Board argued that the nearest police response to the school, which is 30 miles southeast from Colorado Springs, is at least 20 minutes, which left them feeling vulnerable to an armed attacker. Seven states now allow teachers and campus staff to voluntarily carry their concealed guns to protect themselves and students, after having gone through a certified firearms safety and handling program. Critics argue this approach is not safe and could lead to accidental discharges, unintended deaths, and other legal nightmares.

Kenneth S. Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services, (www.schoolsecurity.org) a school violence prevention consulting firm based in Ohio, has strong feelings about this issue: “School districts considering arming teachers and school staff with guns would take on significant responsibility and potential liabilities that I firmly believe are beyond the expertise, knowledge-base, experience, and professional capabilities of most school boards and administrators.” He added that school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, school safety experts, and public safety officials he has talked with around the nation consistently do not believe that educators and school support staff should be armed. Trump said, “Suggesting that by providing teachers, principals, custodians, or other school staff with 8, 16, 40, or even 60 hours of firearms training on firing, handling, and holstering a gun somehow makes a non-law enforcement officer suddenly qualified to provide public safety services is an insult to our highly trained police professionals and a high risk to the safety of students, teachers, and other school staff,”

Supporters of armed teachers counter that even a 10-minute police response time, which appears to be the average across many school shooting situations, still gives too much time to an armed perpetrator to shoot or stab students and employees. They counter that arming teachers and staff sends a strong deterrence message to would-be attackers, especially when individual campuses post signs around the perimeter of their facilities warning that staff may be armed. With more states loosening their gun laws and more counties issuing Carrying Concealed Weapons (CCWs) permits—over 15.2 million holders in the United States to date—this discussion will continue in earnest, especially after the next mass school attack.