Panel to discuss arming Eagle Point teachers

A committee formed to research the idea of arming Eagle Point School District personnel will meet this week.

The "Weapons Safety Committee" is composed of teachers, staff members, parents, weapons experts, local law enforcement and administrators. The panel members will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at the district offices, said Allen Barber, the district's human resources director.

"We have only scheduled one meeting, and during that meeting we will determine whether or not we need further meetings," Barber said. Arming district staff members as a way to better protect students from school violence is the idea of School Board President Scott Grissom.

At the June 12 board meeting, Grissom, recently re-elected to his seat for another four-year-term, said he wants to establish a policy that would 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. Those employees approved by the board would be trained in firearm safety. They also would receive extra compensation for their additional "position expectations," as well as liability insurance, Grissom said.

Grissom said his plan would have a deterrent effect on those who might be plotting violence. Eagle Point students would be "the safest kids in Oregon and probably on the West Coast," he said.

Outgoing Board member Jim Mannenbach said Grissom's plan actually could endanger the lives of students and staff. Mannenbach urged the board to consider going after federal grants that would fund the hiring of more School Resource Officers. Professionally trained officers respond to threats in a manner that is "much better for the safety of everyone."

Grissom's recommendation would also create policy that would prohibit all non-authorized employees, district contractors and/or their employees and district volunteers from possessing a dangerous or deadly weapon or firearm on district property or at school-sponsored events.

School Board Vice President Tom Dole objected to implementing Grissom's motion without further study, the motion was amended to direct Superintendent Cynda Rickert to create a committee to research the idea.

Students are not allowed to bring dangerous weapons to school. But the district currently has "no policy" for district employees regarding firearms, said Rickert.

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