More States, Districts Allowing School Employees to Carry Firearms
Some policies allow any employee to carry a gun on campus while others exclude teachers or staff who supervise classrooms.
Arming teachers has been a hot-button issue for years now, but whichever side of the argument you’re on, more states and school districts are starting to allow staff to carry guns on campus.
Garrison Independent School District (GISD) in Texas announced it will allow employees to carry firearms on school campuses, KLTV reports. Superintendent Reid Spivey said the board of trustees passed a resolution last month approving participation in The Guardian Plan, which allows school boards to adopt a policy that designates specific employees to carry firearms on school premises.
In a letter, Spivey wrote all chosen employees will be required to complete “extensive training and regular evaluations.” Selected employees will begin carrying going on August 1.
Spivey said the district made the decision after distributing a survey to both teachers and parents and hosting a community-wide meeting in April. One factor behind the decision was officer response time. Garrison ISD does not have its own police department and the district has prior experience with slow response times for lockdowns.
“We had an incident in town not too long ago and the response time was about 20 minutes before anybody ever arrived. We had to lock down to where we stayed in lockdown for several, a couple hours it seemed like,” said Spivey. “We feel that student safety is our number one priority and therefore have decided on this course of action.”
A 2018 report from Crime Research found there are at least 217 school districts in 134 counties in Texas that allow teachers and/or staff to carry guns in schools.
Districts, States Take Varying Approaches
Last month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation that could allow teachers to carry firearms in the classroom. House Bill 99 gives boards of education authority to decide whether to allow their teachers and employees to carry firearms. Under the bill, local school boards must require up to 24 hours of training. They can choose to mandate more but it isn’t required.
“This is a local choice, not mandated by the legislature nor by the government,” DeWine said. “Each school board will determine what is best for their students, their staff and their community.”
In Mississippi, recent moves made by education officials suggest they are on a similar trajectory. On Thursday, the Mississippi Board of Education voted to update a 1990 internal policy that prohibits anyone other than law enforcement from carrying guns on public school campuses, reports News Max.
The board said the old policy “predates any notable school shootings.” Officials also said the language removed from the policy conflicts with the state’s 2011 enhanced conceal carry law which allows people with enhanced carry licenses to carry guns on public school campuses.
The board adopted the change as a temporary rule and it is now up for a 25-day public comment period. The board expects to review feedback at its September meeting.
Some districts are taking a more middle ground approach. In Georgia, the Cobb County School District’s Board of Education voted 4-2 for a policy that allows employees to carry weapons in schools, according to CBS. However, this excludes teachers and staff who supervise classrooms. Superintendent Chris Ragsdale emphasized he does not support arming teachers.
“This policy gives us other opportunities to enhance and increase the number of school resource officers in our district,” he said during a July 14 board meeting.
Under the new policy, employees can volunteer to carry weapons on school grounds. Employees who choose to participate must be trained before being approved by the superintendent. Training includes pistol shooting, marksmanship, and a review of current laws on the use of force for self-defense or others, the policy states. Additionally, armed staff must be licensed under state law to carry a firearm and should pass annual criminal background checks.
According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, federal law prohibits guns on K-12 campuses generally but “many states allow schools to grant individualized permission to permit holders to carry.” About half of the states allow school employees who aren’t teachers to carry guns on K-12 school grounds with varying permission requirements.