While local school superintendents remain adamant against arming teachers and other school personnel as a precaution in the event of a school shooter like the one Friday at Santa Fe High School in Texas, some state school districts are embracing the idea.
Two Indiana school districts have approved resolutions to allow some school personnel to carry firearms, one this month and one four years ago. Indiana law allows school boards to set policies allowing firearms on school grounds.
The Jay School Corp., in Portland, Indiana, about 95 miles northeast of Indianapolis, joined the North White School Corp. in allowing certain trained school personnel to carry weapons on school grounds.
Jay schools Superintendent Jeremy Gulley, a lieutenant colonel in the Indiana Army National Guard for 28 years, said, “I am tired of seeing headlines like what we are seeing today. … To be clear, we are not arming teachers in our classrooms.” He was referring to the high school shooting Friday in Santa Fe, Texas, where 10 were killed, including nine students, and at least 10 were wounded.
He said under the policy approved Monday, staff members who volunteer will be screened psychologically and undergo at least 26 hours of training before being approved by the school board to carry a firearm on school property.
“Specifically, they would have access to firearms held in a safe with biometric controls,” Gulley said Friday by email.
Jay School Corp. has a 2017-18 student enrollment of 3,250 students.
“We tried to find a sensible middle ground to a very real threat. It’s sensible, it’s responsible and it does not reflect the risks associated with arming teachers in the classroom,” Gulley said.
Other aspects of the plan include creating a school safety commission involving law enforcement, educators and members of the community; active-shooter exercises, one which was conducted at Jay County High School last week; increased staff training; and including law enforcement in developing the remodeling plans for two elementary schools.
He said 48 employees have volunteered to carry firearms, and selection and training will begin over the summer.
Four years ago, North White School Corp.’s Board of Trustees approved a similar policy. North White is about 78 miles from Northwest Indiana in Monon, which is in White County. It has a student population of 867 students.
Its policy gives administrators the option of carrying firearms after two training sessions, though it’s not clear if anyone has taken the district up on that option.
Local school officials, state education leader still decry arming teachers
Like many local school leaders, Munster schools Superintendent Jeff Hendrix expressed his sadness regarding the Texas school shooting but said, “I do not believe that arming teachers is a viable option for the teachers and students in the School Town of Munster.”
Indiana education leader Jennifer McCormick on Friday expressed her sadness and anger over yet another school shooting.
“Indiana is sharing in grief and anger over another mass shooting taking place in a school,” she said.
“Our thoughts go out to the students, educators and families of Sante Fe. As Indiana’s Department of Education, we will continue to advocate for and pursue resources, readiness measures and relationships.”
McCormick said she maintains it’s not a good idea for teachers and school personnel to be armed.
“I look at the risk versus the reward,” she said. “I just don’t believe it’s a good idea. We are going to have to help schools find the resources to get school resource officers and law enforcement. We’re going to have to help schools get those layers of support. Arming teachers just isn’t the answer.
“If there is a unique situation where there is an administrator who came out of the armed forces and has that tactical training, they may be different, but that’s few and far between. … When I talk to schools, it’s about money and finding those right folks to hire. We still have a complex situation, and we have to have a multifaceted approach, which includes first responders, law enforcement and school resource officers,” she said.
Terry Spradlin, executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, said the governor signed into law this week a measure that increases school safety funding by $5 million per year. He said he hopes that will help school administrators hire additional resource officers, conduct threat assessments at school buildings and upgrade technology.