Don't pull the trigger yet

At least they're asking questions first.

The Eagle Point School Board is exploring the idea of arming school staff who would presumably respond if a shooter invaded a campus in the district. School Board President Scott Grissom set the process in motion during the board's June 12 meeting, saying the move was needed to keep students safe.

Medford School District officials are taking a very different approach to the issue, voting to uphold the dismissal of a campus monitor who insisted he be allowed to carry a gun on the job.

We agree with Medford on this issue. Guns do not belong in schools, and arming staff members will make no one safer. If anything, gun-toting educators will increase the risk of injury or death on campus.

Medford has a district policy against employees carrying firearms at work — a policy new hires agree to when they accept a job. The Jackson County Circuit Court has ruled that the district has the right as an employer to bar guns from the workplace, just as private-sector employers do. Eagle Point has no official policy.

Grissom's proposal would create a new policy prohibiting employees, volunteers and contractors from bringing guns to school except for designated staff members who would be trained in firearm safety and insured by the district. It would be interesting to see the quotes from insurance companies for a liability policy on pistol-packing teachers.

After 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. Here are a few questions the committee must answer:

  • How would employees be selected? Would psychological testing be used, as it is with police recruits, to evaluate their fitness to carry a firearm and respond appropriately to provocation?
  • How many employees would be armed? A handful of guns on a large campus such as a high school wouldn't necessarily be of any use if a shooter entered far from the nearest armed employee.
  • Would teachers carry guns on their persons? How long would it be before a child figured out who was packing? How would that affect the learning environment?
  • Would the guns be locked up instead? If so, where, and how quickly could a staff member retrieve a gun in an emergency? How long would it take for students to find out where those guns are locked up?
  • Would staff members receive police-style training in facing an armed assailant and in shooting to kill? How many employees would be willing to undergo such training? Would they be expected to maintain proficiency and marksmanship as police officers are?

Grissom argues that armed school staff would deter would-be school shooters.

Walking into a school and gunning down children is the act of a profoundly disturbed individual. Grissom is expecting rational thought from a person who is by any definition irrational, not to mention potentially suicidal. It is difficult to imagine such an individual being deterred by the prospect of facing armed teachers.

Medford has received national recognition for using resource officers from the Medford Police Department — trained law enforcement professionals, not educators — in schools. Eagle Point School Board Member Jim Mannenbach urged his colleagues to pursue grant funding to pay for more such officers, but board member Mary Olsen argued the district could not afford that, saying armed teachers would be a "temporary stop-gap."

Eagle Point's new committee should be prepared to explain to parents how such a "temporary stop-gap" would make students safer, not less safe.

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