Guns in class: Colorado school district plans to train and arm its teachers

A rural Colorado school district will allow its teachers to carry guns as part of a wider effort to enhance school security. The community was divided on the measure.

Brennan Linsley/AP/File
A poster with the faces and names of the young victims of the Sandy Hook School massacre rests on the desk of State Senator Angela Giron (D) of Pueblo, during a 2013 debate over gun control bills in the Colorado Legislature.

A Colorado school district has voted to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons, following a growing number of schools that have made educators an integral part of their school security policies.

In a 3-2 vote, the board of Hanover School District 28 supported a resolution that would train and arm teachers. It’s a rural district 30 miles southeast of Colorado Springs, where law enforcement can take between 20 and 30 minutes to arrive if anything happens.

With that in mind, advocates say arming teachers is a cost-effective way to keep students safe. The proposal has divided the community, however, with some students, parents, and teachers arguing that having more guns in school is unnecessary and may even increase the risks to children. 

"There is a desire for a perceived increase in security within the building," explained board president Mark McPherson, KDRO reported. Mr. McPherson voted against the measure.

This debate has played out in dozens of school districts in the four years since an armed intruder shot 20 students and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. On Dec. 14, 2012. In Idaho, Arkansas, and across the country, teachers have been trained to handle firearms. Several Colorado school districts have already implemented similar policies. In dozens of other cases, however, such resolutions have failed. Primarily Democratic legislators have advocated for gun control policies that would prevent would-be shooters from having access to the weapons.

In District 28, the issue has been under discussion since June, when school board member Michael Lawson suggested allowing concealed carry. The board voted on Wednesday, the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting.

For Mr. Lawson, who is an NRA firearms instructor and volunteer firefighter, allowing teachers to carry weapons is a practical way to protect students both from armed intruders and from the risks connected to marijuana cultivation – possibly a flashpoint for violence – which is going on a few miles from the school.

“If this resolution passes, we can put up a sign, 'Some staff at this school may be armed,’” he told the Gazette of Colorado Springs. “To me, that's a deterrent."

It’s unclear how significant a concern marijuana cultivation is for school security. The sheriff’s office has made just one big bust of an illegal grow in the county. But new marijuana laws means that number could soon increase, El Paso Deputy Jeff Schulz told the Gazette.

McPherson said arming teachers simply isn’t necessary, and could even be dangerous.

"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 told the Gazette. "As a retired Army officer, I would never arm our employees.”

The district has never had an intruder, Superintendent Grant Schmidt said.

More guns means more possibilities for them to get into the wrong hands, suggested Ken Corbett in a piece for Slate.

“As a child psychologist, I find myself thinking, 'Do these people know children?' ” he asked. “Kids get their hands on most everything.”

Parents, educators, and students in the Colorado district were divided, a survey found. Many supporters cited their hope that the measure could save lives before law enforcement arrives. Parent Roy Smith, who opposed training and arming teachers, suggested alternatives, including pepper spray and stun guns. Learning to use a gun takes time teachers may not have, he told the Gazette.

McPherson, the board president, recommended hiring another school security officer. But board members suggested that would be too costly, at up to $55,000 per year, Superintendent Schmidt said.

President-elect Donald Trump has been among those advocating for training more teachers to carry guns

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.