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Thompson speaks out against arming teachers


By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer

Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Matt Thompson has weighed in against a controversial proposal to arm teachers in wake of the school shootings at Marshall County High School and Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., recently.

“I understand why this has been suggested as a solution to the senseless tragedies of school shootings, but we really need fewer guns in schools, not more,” Thompson told the Advocate.

Following the Florida shooting President Donald Trump suggested the arming of teachers who would be trained and given a bonus for doing so.
Thompson told the Advocate he prefers to have armed law enforcement, such as school resource officers.

The local school district has its own law enforcement, which includes director Chris Barrier, who is located at the high school.
“The best answer is to have appropriately trained and armed law enforcement officers in schools instead of arming others,” Thompson said.

The proposal has inspired contentious debate.

The strategy became a topic of discussion following the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy and another that followed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Jon Akers, executive director of Center of School Safety at Eastern Kentucky University, addressed the issue in an article he published recently concerning the debate.

Akers noted that legislation allowing teachers to carry weapons in schools has been proposed in a number of states, including Tennessee, Florida, Oregon, California, Kansas and others. He notes that in some locales, the discussion has gone beyond “allowing” to reportedly “encouraging” and “requiring.”

Akers’ article cites the polarization on the issue in which the National Rifle Association has suggested that arming teachers might have prevented the death of the children in the Sandy Hook incident and would dissuade future attacks while the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, two organizations representing teachers, issued a joint statement calling such proposals “astounding and disturbing.”

Akers’ article cites another written by Dr. Sheldon Greenberg of Johns Hopkins University that argues against arming teachers.
“The article concludes that the concept of arming teachers and other school officials as a means to prevent and mitigate multiple casualty shootings and other violent encounters, while well-intentioned, creates greater risk than it seeks to resolve,” Akers quotes Greenberg.

Akers, citing a roundtable of 36 police officials representing 14 agencies in January 2013, concluded that certain assumptions would have to be made before arming teachers could work. They were that:
• The teacher is adequately trained in using a firearm in a crisis encounter

• The teacher is close to where the shooting occurs or can get there in time to intervene

• The teacher has time to “size up” the situation
• The teacher has clarity or focus/clarity of thought about aggressing toward the shooter

• The teacher’s handgun is “at the ready,” near hand, or in hand when needed

• The teacher can quickly remove the weapon from a safety holster (if one is used)
• The teacher remembers to unlock the weapon

• The teacher remembered to load the weapon
• The teacher remembers to chamber a round (if a semi-automatic weapon is used)

• The teacher is left alone to shoot (not simultaneously engaged by or with students)
• The teacher will shoot quickly and accurately
• The teacher will shoot accurately while moving (shootings are not stationary events)

• The physical environment allows a “clean” shot at a “clear” target
• The line of fire does not jeopardize others (students or others in the background)

• The teacher has sufficient momentary cover to enable the shot(s)
• The assailant (active shooter) is still or still-enough for the teacher to get a clean shot
• There is a single assailant

• The assailant will not see and react to the teacher drawing or firing a handgun

• If encountered in a close “combat” situation, the teacher will retain his or her weapon

• The assailant will succumb and cease firing when shot
• Responding police officers will recognize the armed teacher as other than one of the assailants (a significant concern of the roundtable participants).

Akers noted from the roundtables that it was established that police officers are psychologically/emotionally prepared to take a life (signed on to do it, if needed) while taking a life is a foreign concept for a teacher.
He also noted that police officers are committed to intervening in high threat, life or death situations to save lives (takes a signed oath to do so) while teachers are committed to fostering learning and the development of young people not life or death confrontations.

The roundtables, likewise, made note of officers’ high level of familiarity/comfort with firearms, which is generally limited for teachers.
Roundtable participants also raised other concerns, such as the inability of responding police and security officers to distinguish the armed teacher from the assailant/active shooter.

In conclusion, Akers’ article says that “Teachers and other school officials enter their profession to educate young people. They do not sign on to carry a gun to school with the expectation that they will engage in a gunfight to defeat an armed assailant. Current policies and practices in several states and school systems allow teachers and other officials to carry concealed weapons. Evidence supporting the value of arming teachers and school officials is nonexistent.”

This week the Pike County Board of Education gave preliminary approved to a plan that would allow teachers to carry concealed guns inside schools.

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, is a co-sponsor of a bill this session of the Legislature that would allow an armed employee or “school marshal” on the grounds, even though t