Whether to arm teachers is a question on many minds right now in the wake of the Florida school shooting last month and President Trump’s advocacy for the idea.
The conversation is still in its early days, with many points of view.
Eighteen readers responded to a question on the CourierTraveler Facebook page, “Should Teachers Be Armed?”
Most people who thought arming teachers is a good idea — and that was more than half of the respondents— had two caveats: The teachers have to want to be armed, and they must be given rigorous training.
Stacey Rowley sees the teacher’s role as stepping in for her: “If I am not there to defend my child I want the teachers to be able to.”
Eight respondents said “no” for several reasons: Teachers already have too many responsibilities. Teachers are not trained to carry weapons. Arming the teachers makes everyone less safe.
“Teachers already have to be mother, father, counselors, provide supplies, food, clothes!! Now you’re asking them to be judge/jury and executioner!! Think people,” wrote Wilma Fortner-Jones.
“I will take my children out of Winfield schools and home school my boys if this happens,” wrote Kati Doolittle.
Brenda Jo said having armed teachers would enable school personnel to make a quicker response to a shooter than waiting for police to get there.
Kitra Terrell said of arming the teachers “in no way does this take away their focus on teaching the kids.”
But Karen Bauer said arming teachers does not address “the issue of our students need inclusion. It is not all on the teachers; students, are you willing to reach out to those who are hurting, lonely, outcasts and being kind and treating them the way you would want to be treated.”
Several teachers in local public and private schools were asked to respond to the question of being armed but were unwilling to do so for the record.
One who responded was Kathryn Swain, a former Ark City high school teacher who now teaches in a college program.
Swain’s concern is for “the law of unintended consequences,” not the possible benefits but the possible drawbacks of arming teachers.
She used the recent story of an armed teacher in a Georgia school barricading himself in his classroom then shooting through an outside window as an example of an unintended negative consequence.
“We need to keep people safe everywhere, concerts, movies, supermarkets, ball games, not only schools,” Swain said. “If we armed everybody, we would be accepting that we live in a really violent society. We have problems (as a society) that need to be addressed, but arming everybody is not the way to do it.”
Winfield school board president Lyle Weinert said the board has not discussed arming teachers and right now has no plans of putting it on the agenda.
Weinert mentioned an earlier occasion when the board started to discuss arming teachers “probably after another shooting.” Before the discussion could get very far, someone mentioned that their current insurance company did not insure schools that armed teachers.
“That was the end of that discussion. We don’t have the same insurer,” but liability is a big issue, Weinert said.
Asked about school resource officers’ being armed, Winfield Police Chief Brett Stone said the Winfield school district has a memo of understanding with the police department that acknowledges the SRO’s carrying a gun as part of the official police uniform.
Stone said he has mixed feelings about arming teachers — he can see why people think it is a good idea, but he questions the idea of “adequate training” to make them ready to use firearms.
Eight hours of training is in no way equivalent to the many hours police are trained and retrained, he said.
“I have been armed for 26 years in my line of work,” Stone said, “and how much liability is involved with being armed “is daunting.”
New USD 470 Board of Education member Rhoda MacLaughlin said the board had not discussed arming the teachers since she had come on the board. “I’m new on the board,” she said. “I don’t know if they’ve discussed it before.”
She declined to speak about the issue for the record.
USD 470 Superintendent Ron Ballard expressed concern for his teachers and wanted to keep them away from the media because of the political nature of the current discussion.
USD 465 Superintendent J.K.Campbell said the district is following the state statute and looking to the Kansas Department of Education and the Kansas Association of School Boards for guidance.
The issue is political, said USD 465 Assistant Superintendent Mark Littrell, so the district wants to go slowly and carefully in responding to it.
Kim Porter, principal of Holy Name Catholic School in Winfield, said the Wichita Catholic Diocese Superintendent of Schools, Bob Voboril, spoke for the diocesan teachers in a statement to KSN TV.
“We don’t allow any weapons in our schools now. Ever.” Voboril did say, however, that the debate on safety might cause some changes.