Why a remote Idaho school is arming teachers with guns

A school district in Idaho recently purchased firearms and trained members of the staff to use them. Several other schools – mostly rural and in the West – have responded to the debate about school shootings by arming teachers.

Brian Blanco/Reuters
A group of local public school teachers from Florida schools use rubber training guns as they practice drills on disarming an attacker during a teachers-only firearms training class offered for free at the Veritas Training Academy in Sarasota, Florida after the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Debates over how to stop school shootings continue on the national scene, but several schools in the West and South are taking matters into their own hands by arming teachers, despite the risks. 

Lighthouse Christian School, a private school in Twin Falls, Idaho, has responded to potential shooting threats by arming administrators and teaching them to use guns. 

"With people spread out throughout your facility, you have greater protection as well, responding to an incident," Kevin Newbry, the superintendent at Lighthouse Christian School, told KMVT. "With an intruder that has a gun or a rifle, statistics show the only thing that is going to stop an issue is another gun, unfortunately."

Elsewhere in the state, public schools are trying it. A small school district in Garden Valley, Idaho, decided to arm school employees last summer. The district did not have the money to hire a resource officer, and the police response time to the rural school was 30 to 45 minutes, KBOI News reported. 

"We just have to protect our kids and we didn't want to do it in a haphazard way," Marc Gee, Garden Valley School District superintendent, told KBOI News. "It's been positive – I have yet to have a community member come in and say, 'Why are you doing this?'" 

Six employees trained with local police. School board member Alan Ward told The Associated Press the district spent $3,500 on the security plan for the school, which enrolls fewer than 300 students, and the community donated the rest. 

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., several schools tried to arm teachers as a precaution against further shootings. Different schools in Colorado and Arizona armed on-campus volunteers in 2013, and a small district in Arkansas armed 20 school staff in 2013, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The move drew criticism for both ideological and financial reasons, and the state of Kansas scrapped a plan to arm its teachers after insurance companies balked.  

"We just think educators should be in the business of educating students, not carrying a weapon," Donna Morey, former president of the Arkansas Education Association, told The Christian Science Monitor at the time.

Teachers in Utah are free to arm themselves, and during the state's October break from school, the Utah Shooting Sports Council offered free concealed weapons classes to 20 teachers. The class aimed to expand teachers' options beyond the district's policy of locking the classroom door, turning off the lights, and hiding, KSL News reported. 

"A shooter who wants to end his life via suicide but take a whole bunch of other people with him, probably wants to pick a place to exact that evil plan without getting return fire," council chairman Clark Aposhian told KSL News. "We are hoping to show that Utah schools and universities are not a place to do that."

Some in the area criticized the idea, saying teachers have enough to learn without adding weapons training. 

"Teachers have so much other training to undergo," retired elementary educator Malinda Lund told KSL News. "They just aren't equipped to handle firearms." 

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