At Least 7 States Now Have Armed Staff in Schools

Some say giving school administrators concealed weapons makes students safer; others disagree.

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Officer Rick Moore of the Oakland school district police patrols Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, Calif. The idea of arming school staff gained attention following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

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An Arkansas school district said Tuesday it planned to arm more than 20 teachers and administrators – the first district in the state to do so, according to the Associated Press. The plan is already seeing dissent from some educators in the state, including former Arkansas Education Association President Donna Morey, who told the AP the idea is "awful."

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But Arkansas joins at least six states that already have armed guards in schools, states with a range of permissive to stringent guns: Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Washington state.

The idea of giving guns to school staffers has been a point of contention since the December shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. In January, The National Rifle Association's vice president Wayne LaPierre called on Congress to "put armed police officers in every single school in this nation."

 

Many state educators have since resisted the idea, but in Colorado's rural, southwestern Dolores County, school district authorities have embraced firearms on school grounds. A February 2013 Dolores County Board of Education resolution that approved arming the school principal and superintendent cited "the District's own experience and recent incidents nationally."

In 2009, Dolores County deputies thwarted a 16-year-old's plot to kill a local school principal.

"We made the decision because it made financial and security sense for our small rural district," Bruce Jenkins, the county's superintendent and now a school security officer, wrote in an e-mail. Jenkins says he has undergone 40 hours of intensive handgun training. According a copy of his security officer contract shared with U.S. News, he is considered to be "on duty" with a gun at all times when he is on school premises.

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The idea of adding security duties to already busy school staff worries some. Ron Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center, a safe schools advocacy group, says school superintendents and principals may have a tough time both managing a crisis for a school and shooting down a culprit.

"If a district is going to do this, it has to think through what they're asking school officials to do. You really need to have an effective crisis team in place with specific roles and responsibility," he says. "And the administrator has to ask: do I want to be responsible for taking out the armed bad guys when they come?"

Ken Trump, a national school safety consultant, says the ideal solution is for school districts to put certified law enforcement officers on campus – such as through the U.S. Department of Justice's School Resource Officer program – rather than give security duties to school staff.

And most Americans agree. A Pew poll in January found that although 64 percent of Americans favored putting armed security guards of some kind in schools, they were largely opposed to giving teachers and school officials guns.

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