Teachers designated as school protection officers and trained to shoot armed intruders on school property have the approval of the Missouri Legislature. But Gov. Jay Nixon has so many concerns about it, he hasn’t yet signed the bill approved by the General Assembly on Friday, May 16.
Teachers designated as school protection officers and trained to shoot armed intruders on school property have the approval of the Missouri Legislature.
But Gov. Jay Nixon has so many concerns about it, he hasn’t yet signed the bill approved by the General Assembly on Friday, May 16.
And local schools superintendents are adamantly opposed to it.
“As a professional educator, I am not in favor of anybody but law enforcement having weapons on school property,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Aaron Zalis told the Rolla Daily News.
Rolla Public Schools and the Rolla Police Department have a contract for a school resource officer, a commissioned police officer who is available in school buildings for searches, interrogations and other law enforcement tasks.
Zalis said he would not be comfortable being armed himself or having other educators armed.
“We all have a role to play. We (educators) protect kids and get them out of the buildings (in case of an emergency),” Zalis said. “Police find the bad guy.”
St. James Schools Superintendent Joy Tucker agrees. "I think you're just asking for trouble," Tucker said. "I'm not against people having the right to carry. I'm against having the right to carry at school.
"I don't think it's going to help any of our issues – I think it's going to cause more and more issues."
The state’s lawmakers, though, have apparently been thinking about protecting students from intruders such as the killer in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Designating select teachers and administrators as school protection officers, training them and allowing them to carry concealed weapons in the classroom would be allowed under the legislation approved by the Legislature. The House vote was 111-28 on May 16; the Senate approved the bill the day before.
After lawmakers adjourned, Nixon expressed some reservations and said he would review the bill.
"School safety is important," he said. "I never believe guns in classrooms are a way to keep security and class order."
Zalis said although he is opposed to the arming of teachers, “It depends on the community.”
And although he would not want to carry a concealed weapon on school property and possibly be faced with the use of it, there are several ex-military men and women who are now educators in Missouri who might be willing.
The state also has a heritage of hunting, so many people are familiar with the use of firearms, he acknowledged.
If the governor signs the bill, and there is a push by the community to arm teachers, it would not be a move that would be done quickly.
It would take a change in policy,” Zalis noted, and such a change would require review by the policy committee. Input from administrators, teachers, students and parents would likely be heard before any action would be taken by the board on such an important revision.
The legislation, SB 656, that awaits the governor’s decision, would also lower the minimum age required to get a concealed weapons permit to 19 from 21 and allow permit holders to carry openly, even in municipalities that ban open carry.
In addition, health care professionals could not be required to ask or document whether a patient owns or has access to a gun and public housing authorities could not ban tenants or their family members from possessing firearms.
At least one Missouri school already allows the arming of teachers, Zalis noted.
That is Fairview School, a rural elementary school district in Howell County outside West Plains.
An April 14, 2013, story in the New York Times explained that the school board, which at the time included a former county sheriff, worked out the liability coverage with the school’s insurance provider, and in February 2013 authorized a training program for school employees.
Those employees underwent a 40-hour course in March 2013. The employes furnish their own guns, pass a background check and undergo drug testing and mental evaluation each year.
Jim Brock and The Associated Press contributed to this report.