By Wayne Litke
I am constantly amazed at how people look at the world around them and the circumstances that surround them. Even more surprising are some of the rationalizations and decisions that are made when a person’s perspective or mind is skewed, and they fail to realize it. That may sound like a ridiculous statement after I wrote about the merits of celebrating International Men’s Day last week, but I hope readers can recognize when I am joking or poking fun at something and when I am serious.
Joking is not what school board members in rural Colorado were doing when they voted to allow teachers and staff to carry guns at school. It was a somewhat controversial decision as board members at Hanover School District 28 passed the motion with a 3-2 vote last December.
Approximately 270 students attend two schools located 50 kilometres southeast of Colorado Springs. Since it takes police about 20 minutes to reach the area, board members decided on a totally different course of action that will provide a rapid response to a violent or potentially deadly situation.
Before any staff member will be allowed to carry a firearm, the individual must be educated in safe gun handling, receive certification through training and meet the approval of the school board. These individuals must complete 24 hours of firearms training. The process consists of four hours of classroom work, six hours of active shooter training and 14 hours of training at a shooting range. They must also obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Law enforcers have concerns about teachers and staff carrying weapons since it may not be readily apparent who is a combatant in an emergency situation. A staff member carrying a firearm in a crisis situation and taking students from one location to another could be mistaken for a shooter. Therefore, an emergency response plan is being worked out between the school and police department.
I learned Briggsdale School (65 miles northeast of Denver) was more proactive than Hanover School District and changed it policies in 2013 allowing teachers or staff to carry sidearms. The change was in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 that resulted in 26 people being killed. Four employees completed the necessary firearm training. While reading about that rural school system and its 165 students, I came across information about many other U.S. schools that also have a similar policy.
In response to the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, Harrold Independent School Board passed a motion later that year to allow their employees to carry a weapon at work. An employee who wants to do so must undergo an evaluation by the board that is based on his or her personality and reaction to a crisis. A concealed-weapon permit is also required. Teachers are required to take training to deal with crisis intervention and hostage situations. To make it more interesting, only the district superintendent knows which employees are carrying firearms.
In my opinion, it is a very sad day when teachers or staff at a school must consider carrying a firearm in order to protect students. What has occurred in the last 50 years that has turned students into murderers of their peers and teachers? The truth is classroom and school-related violence has been going on since the 1800s and likely before that. I was shocked when I read accounts of U.S. students and parents killing teachers 175 years ago. Teachers also initiated such action against parents and pupils. One of the first school massacres in the States occurred in 1956. Such heinous acts seemed to grow in regularity from the 1980s to the present. While school shootings occur far less often in Canada, the trend and time frame is relatively consistent with statistics from our gun-wielding neighbours south of the border. It makes me wonder about the root causes behind this murderous action and changes in social values in the last 40 years. What has happened that is turning children into mass murderers? Is the correct response to arm teachers?
In Texas, guns are not allowed in a school unless officials have given written authorization. An exception is made for people who have licenses to carry concealed weapons. At least eight other states have similar legislation. Nine additional states allow concealed weapons to be stored in locked cars on school parking lots.
Twenty-one states permit schools and universities to determine if teachers can carry a concealed firearm in the classroom. To top it off, only 11 states prohibit the carrying of handguns on school or university property.
A study conducted at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health came to an interesting conclusion.
“Researchers studied each state’s ability to curb firearm trafficking, strength of background checks on people purchasing firearms, children’s safety, whether military style assault weapons were banned, and how much guns were restricted in public places. The states that were able to employ strict gun control saw the lowest amount of gun related homicides and suicides, proving that the theory of more guns equals less violence does not hold up.”