Schools arming teachers

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It, Schools arming teachers.

President Trump raised that idea after the mass shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The idea of putting guns in teachers’ hands is a debate with passionate supporters on both sides.

But it’s beyond the debating stage. It’s already happening across the country.

WORLD Radio’s Jim Henry has our story.

JIM HENRY, REPORTER: In Fort Worth, Texas— teachers recently used non-lethal marking rounds to “take down” an armed assailant in a tactical training drill—

AUDIO: All of you are going to die! (shots fired, grappling) Cease fire! Cease fire!

Arming teachers and other school employees to respond to shooting incidents has always been controversial— but the rhetoric reached a fever pitch after last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Indiana School Superintendent Jennifer McCormick—

MCCORMICK: I too think that’s a really bad idea. I think there are more risks than reward when you’re talking about arming teachers. We lose our keys, I can’t imagine trying to keep track of guns. 

And CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin was even more direct.

TOOBIN: When you hear the president of the United States say the answer is go give every teacher in America a gun, that is insane. That is an insane idea.

But President Trump didn’t actually propropose arming all teachers.

TRUMP:  This would only be obviously for people who are very adept at handling a gun. They’d go for special training and it’s certainly a point that we’ll discuss.

Just two weeks after the Parkland shooting— Florida moved ahead on its own— passing a law providing $67 million to train and arm its teachers.

But this isn’t a new idea. After the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting— Texas established a rigorous training program to arm volunteer school staff. Retired law enforcement officer Bryan Proctor was among the first instructors certified by the state to train teachers.

He says the volunteer applicants must pass a battery of written and practical tests at the instructor level to be certified to carry a firearm in Texas schools.

PROCTOR: We put them in the situation where there’s an active shooter in the classroom and they have to defend that classroom, and if they can’t pass the proficiency or can’t grasp the concepts, then they’re dismissed from the course then—and then at the very end we go out and do a 200-round live fire proficiency at different yardages, distances and incorporating different movements, things like that and if they can’t pass that, then they’re dismissed, they don’t get the certificate.

Proctor says the training is based on a methodology called avoid— deny— defend.

PROCTOR: Which is avoid the problem if you can, get out of the classroom. If you can’t avoid the problem, just deny them access to the classroom, barricade doors, whatnot. If that’s failing, then last chance they have to defend that classroom with the kids in it. We do not teach those teachers to go after the bad guy. They are strictly to defend those kids if that active shooter gets in that room. 

Texas law allows Proctor to train only six teacher applicants at a time— and in his last session— only three qualified to earn certificates.

In 2017— Southeastern University— a Christian institution in Lakeland, Florida— entered into the Sentinel Program with the Polk County Sheriff’s office.

Southeastern President Kent Ingle says 8 volunteer faculty members underwent the same training deputies receive to join the force— and then some.

INGLE: It’s actually 25-percent more than the average police officer or law enforcement officer has to have in terms to be certified to carry a firearm and be engaged in that kind of activity.

Florida law prohibits anyone but authorized law enforcement officers from carrying a firearm on college campuses. So Sentinel graduates become special deputies of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department.

According to a Vice News survey— 14 states have already armed teachers in at least one school district.

Another 16 states give local school boards the authority to arm teachers— although it’s not clear if any have done so to date.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Jim Henry.

(Creede Newton/Amarillo Globe-News via AP) This August 2016 photo shows a sign outside a school in Claude, Texas, which Claude ISD posts outside their schools.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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