School districts in three more states announced that they would arm school staff. I wrote about this trend here in April and here in March. The map keeps changing as more and more districts adopt a policy to allow some of their teachers and staff to go armed on campus. That is significant given the legal and cultural biases at work against them. Arming teachers is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many actions we’ve taken to make our schools safer. I’ve also seen a cultural change take place. This is a change in how we protect our students as well as what we do. Here is some of the recent evidence.
School districts in Wyoming, Georgia, and Florida recently allowed volunteer staff to carry a firearm on campus. That usually involves volunteer staff who’ve been asked to take additional training after being interviewed by the sheriff and school board.
Several Georgia school districts made their announcement at almost the same time, and that is unusual. What usually happens is that several districts consider such a change. They then follow the model of the lead district. That attitude is understandable since this is a new procedure for them. They want to learn from the problems that other districts might discover. In contrast, some districts continue to take a wait-and-see attitude. I expect the growing trend towards armed first responders to continue as more and more districts successfully adopt that policy.
Seen and unseen mileposts
School districts make a public announcement when they adopt a policy allowing armed staff. What the districts seldom do is announce which staff have been selected, when the staff were trained, and when and where these individuals started carrying. They don’t want school staff to become a recognized target for armed attackers. The public announcement of the intent to train staff is usually the last public notice that your children will be protected.
Legal factors are still a hurdle
We’ve also seen some states change their laws in the last few months. In states like Florida, it was technically possible to arm school staff, but difficult in practice. Determined school boards and sheriffs worked around existing law to put a program in place. In some cases, this meant designating some school staff as reserve police officers. That law changed for the better, but more states need to simplify their laws.
Cultural factors against armed staff
Protecting our children remains a difficult decision for superintendents and school boards. The local news media might be against them, and the national media certainly is. It is the easiest of clickbait headline to write –“School Board Tells Teachers to Carry Guns” Most teachers’ unions are all too eager to provide a quote condemning the plan. School boards know this. They implement the policy anyway because of the consistent requests by concerned parents. You made it happen.
Many aspects of school safety
The plan to arm teachers gets the headlines even though it is a small part of a broad effort to make our schools safer. There are audit plans in place so that schools can evaluate how well they protect our children. There are even grants available to pay for these safety audits. This safety examination has turned up some interesting situations. What would happen if a stranger walked onto the school grounds near you? How are bullying and threats reported? The new emphasis on school safety also extends to a change in policy so that law enforcement officers receive continuing education credit as they learn to conduct safety audits. Every bit helps, even if those changes never make the headlines.
A change in school safety culture
I talked to several organizations that work to protect our students. They described a significant change in attitude and behavior when they are approached by school boards. The school districts used to send a few teachers and staff to take training and report back to the board. School officials wanted reports from their own people before they implemented a broader plan that might include the entire district. We’re seeing less of that cautious testing as districts now send large teams for training. Districts are also willing to pay to train their staff.
That isn’t true in very case. Some districts depend on grants to train their safety staff. We’ve recently seen some school staff pay their own way. Often, a concerned parent, grandparent, or spouse will pay for a teacher to take the self-defense training. They say, “Leave the money for the next teacher who needs it.” We didn’t see that behavior before.
We also didn’t see so many school districts asking their staff to take medial training. Unlike the training for armed defense, the medical training classes can be held in a local classroom rather than having to send school staff to a distant shooting range. A district can train 30 volunteer medical responders in a single day…and they do.
Every bit helps.
Image: CCO Creative Commons; https://pixabay.com/en/shooting-gun-handgun-pistol-man-1833850/