Since the recent remarks made by the Douglas County, CO School District Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Tucker, vowing to remove any school, even a charter school, from his district if they wanted armed school staff to be part of a security plan, the amount of misinformation I’ve seen about “armed teachers” has been astonishing. The idea that people like myself, who support school and community autonomy over school security, wants to see every teacher in every school “packin’ heat, gun slingin’ like the old west” is downright ridiculous. Hell, some of the stuff I’ve heard you’d think we wanted to arm kids (we do not, trust me)! So let’s look at the facts…
Colorado is one of dozens of states that legally allows individuals to carry a concealed firearm on school grounds during school hours with specific conditions. The laws in each state vary to some degree.
Here is exactly what Colorado’s CRS 18-12-214 (3) (b) states: “A permittee who is employed or retained by contract by a school district or charter school as a school security officer may carry a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvement erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school while the permittee is on duty;”
So, what does that mean?
It means that school district boards or charter school boards can authorize individual school staff members to conceal carry a firearm on school grounds, even if that person does not work for a security company. When a decision is made to allow a school staff member to carry, the district will contract with the employee to add the “school security officer” designation to their primary job duties.
Do these staff members have to be insured? Are there training requirements?
In most cases when a staff member is designated on their contract to be a school security officer, a “rider” is added to their insurance. This insurance rider requires 24 hours of firearm training over the past year, four hours of classroom instruction on firearms safety and use of deadly force, 14 hours of live fire range training exercises, six hours of school active shooter training, and the shooting range test police officers need to pass, among some other things.
Where do they receive the training?
As more schools are looking into this option, almost all are working with FASTER Colorado. FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response. They are dedicated to training school staff with an all of the above approach. Their training goes far beyond what insurance requires, adding in a trauma class and a psychological portion. The trauma skills ensure they’re equipped to not only stop a shooting, but save lives as well. In some of the most tragic school shootings, it is apparent had someone in the school been equipped to stop the bleed, the fatality rate would have dropped – often times substantially. The psychological portion discusses how to interact with a school shooter and asks the question “Can you handle what you may one day have to do?” To graduate from the FASTER training, tactical skills must exceed that of law enforcement. You can watch a 90 minute FASTER presentation here.
Who knows which staff members are armed?
This is entirely up to the school district, but in most cases it is only a select few within the school and local law enforcement. It is critical armed staff works with local law enforcement to develop a strong communication plan should an active shooter situation occur.
Won’t kids get a hold of the guns?
Part of the training is deep concealment techniques. This means authorized staff does not simply carry a handgun holstered to their hip or in a conceal carry purse. It means they have learned and practiced using concealment techniques that are “on-body” 100% of the time, and invisible to even a trained eye.
Isn’t this expensive to the schools?
The insurance rider does increase cost, but it is only a fraction compared to the expense of hiring a SRO or private security. In addition, there are private grant programs available to schools who cannot afford it. The FASTER Colorado training is offered at low or no cost when needed.
Are any schools in Colorado already doing this?
Yes, over 30 school districts in Colorado have authorized personnel. Many of these districts are rural. For example, Hanover, a small community southeast of Colorado Springs has authorized staff because in the case of a school shooting, it would take at minimum 30 minutes for law enforcement to arrive. But more suburban schools are also adding this as part of their security plan. It is a decision that should be made by parents, teachers, and community members. It may not be for every school, but for many it’s a great fit and requested by parents.
Many teachers say they don’t want this responsibility. Will they be forced to carry a firearm if their district does this?
Absolutely not. This is 100% volunteer. No one is forced to do it, and no school is either. But it’s also important to remember some staff members DO want this responsibility, many of them individuals who already conceal carry on a daily basis outside their regular job and train on their own time as a hobby. We have seen again and again a teacher, or a coach, die while trying to protect their students with their body. That same individual could save not only their life, but the lives of others, if they are given a fighting chance.
Teachers need to focus on students, not security. Wouldn’t this affect student education?
First, “school staff” does not mean “teachers”. It means janitors, cafeteria workers, school counselors, coaches, and/or teachers, etc. Admin makes up a large contingent of staff. Many of them are volunteering to take on this role.
Second, there is nothing as distracting as a school shooting. It leaves life long trauma. Children don’t survive. Their safety should be a #1 priority.
I’m a single mother of three. One of my biggest fears is that my children will be in class when a depraved student chooses to create a Columbine copycat – but what I fear even more is that there will be no one there to protect them. There is no one-size-fits all security plan. It’s important that school boards and superintendents listen to what parents and the community want. As parents, we have every right to be critical of our schools and to ask they do a better job protecting our students. If you want your child’s school to consider allowing well trained and authorized armed staff, the best place to start is the school board. Email them. Call them. Attend their meetings. Find out where they stand. And if you need direction, contact us.
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