Eagle Point panel mulls guns in school

A"Weapons Safety Committee" on Wednesday held a second meeting to debate the pros and cons of arming Eagle Point School District staffers.

Tasked with creating a policy on the issue, the 15-members group, composed of the district's staff, parents, weapons experts and the city's police chief, also discussed current safety policies in the second of what will be at least three meetings before the issue is taken to a public forum.

"We're going to take our time to make this decision," said Allen Barber, the district's human resources director.

Barber praised the district and the committee for tackling the controversial topic. Whether they vehemently agree or disagree with arming teachers, educators across the Rogue Valley have told Barber they "applaud the fact we're having the discussion," he said.

Which staff members might be armed? What would be the level of training required? And what would be their responsibilities?

These were the questions the committee members repeatedly returned to during the two-hour meeting.

While students are not allowed to bring dangerous weapons to school, the district has "no policy" for district employees regarding firearms, said Barber.

Under Oregon law, and current district policy, staff members legally can bring their guns to school assuming they passed the one-day course required to obtain the concealed carry permit, he said.

"We can't ask them to train (beyond that)," Barber said. "We can't even ask them if they're carrying."

The district's existing policy to threats of harm is for teachers to lock their doors and hide with the students, he said.

"Currently, we tell staff members 'hide and protect yourself," Barber said. "Truthfully, we don't even say 'protect your children.'"

Greg Mead, a firearms instructor, joined in the debate that ranged from arming teachers to using baseball bats as weapons to the strategic placement of students and teachers in the event of an attack to tackling an armed intruder.

Mead said teachers should act as "shepherds" to their "sheep" and be ready to "jump on (a shooters) back when they come in the room and gouge out their eyeballs."

"Everyone needs to have made the decision to take whatever aggressive action is necessary," he said.

Mead repeatedly pressed for allowing teachers to be armed, and for ensuring anonymity for those who would be carrying weapons. Mead said identifying armed staff members not only makes them a target for a school shooter bent on mass murder, it also opens them up to possible retaliatory acts made against their careers by supervisors who might oppose the notion of guns in schools.

Eagle Point resident Nita Lundberg said other states have made laws allowing teachers to be armed outside of district policy. But most of the people Lundberg spoke to on this issue prefer the district to make no official policy regarding arming staff members.

"Nine out of 10 people say leave it the way it is," Lundberg said, adding she would like to see increased training for all staff members.

Eagle Point resident Terry Marks, a retired police sergeant from La Mesa, Calif., voiced the strongest opposition to the idea of arming district personnel at last month's meeting. Marks did not attend Wednesday's meeting, but sent more than 200 pages of information to the committee members, according to Barber.

Marks urged the district to work harder to increase school safety from a logistical point of view. Better fencing and lock-down systems such as the one recently installed in Shady Cove would be a better solution, he said.

Barber discussed the safety improvements that have been made at all the schools in recent years, including adding security cameras, single point entry for schools, threat assessment programs for students whom exhibit behavioral, academic or psychological concerns .

Eagle Point police Chief Vern Thompson suggested an anonymous tipline be started where students could alert law enforcement if they have concerns about potential school violence.

"The kids always know because they hear things," Thompson said.

The two-hour discussion was once again watched closely by School Board President Scott Grissom. Recently re-elected to his seat for another four-year term, Grissom is promoting arming district staffers, telling committee members their job is to establish a policy that will allow specific school employees to possess certain firearms on school property during normal school hours, at school sponsored or school-sanctioned events, and at board meetings.

The group will meet at least once more prior to opening up the discussion to a public forum. But the next meeting has not yet been scheduled, Barber said.

Share This Story