District considers arming its teachers
On Wednesday, the fourth anniversary of the shooting that killed 20 children and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Hanover School District 28’s board will decide whether to arm teachers and other staff members at school.
Concerns about mass shootings are only part of what’s fueling the proposal to allow employees to carry concealed handguns.
“It’s more what’s coming into the neighborhoods,” board member Michael Lawson said at the November board meeting.
Specifically, the marijuana grows.
Large cultivation operators have set up shop within a few miles of schools on the rural eastern plains of El Paso County, he said.
“There are three (grows) within 2 miles of the school,” Lawson said Monday.
“The Cuban and Colombian cartels are buying up to grow marijuana in Colorado. We need to look at the safety of the schools and the kids.”
District 28, which has about 270 students, has never had an attack from an intruder, said Superintendent Grant Schmidt. The district does have a school resource officer, who is an El Paso County sheriff ’s deputy, on staff.
But it can take emergency vehicles and law enforcement some 30 minutes or more to reach the junior-senior high school, Schmidt said. That’s the major reason for the proposed resolution, he said, adding that since it’s such a controversial topic, he’s not taking sides.
“I figure it’s best determined by the local board, so I’m taking a neutral position and will follow their lead,” he said.
Lawson, a National Rifle Association firearms instructor and volunteer firefighter, brought up the idea at the June board meeting. Members have been discussing the issue since then and are scheduled to vote Wednesday night.
“I don’t care if any of the staff ever pick up a gun,” Lawson said. “The fact that you have a ‘No guns’ sign at your front door is an invitation. If this resolution passes, we can put up a sign, ‘Some staff at this school may be armed.’ To me, that’s a deterrent.”
Colorado law does not allow carrying concealed firearms on public elementary and secondary school property, unless the person is a security guard for the school.
The resolution District 28’s five-member board of education will consider would allow “one or more employees of the district to be designated as security guards and authorized to carry firearms on school property.”
Should the resolution pass with a majority vote, interested teachers and other staff members would need to possess or obtain a concealed-handgun permit, be approved by the board for security guard status and take post-certification training that includes instruction on shooting a firearm.
Employees would not be identified as carrying a concealed weapon and would have to undergo an annual updating of their credentials. The resolution would take effect immediately.
“This is a good place to learn and grow up,” said Lawson, whose children graduated from the district. “Doing this would deter most criminals. You’re not going to get all of them, but if we can turn around most of them, it’s a victory.”
Board President Mark McPherson said he won’t support the resolution, no matter what. He doesn’t think it’s necessary.
“We haven’t seen the need, and I think arming individuals who are not trained to operate with weapons on a daily basis puts everybody in the building at risk,” he said. “As a retired Army officer, I would never arm our employees.”
Instead, McPherson favors hiring another school resource officer.
That would cost up to $55,000 a year, according to Schmidt, an expense some board members said the district would be pressed to find in its budget.