Is arming teachers a good idea or over-reaction? - Bonner County Daily Bee: Local News

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Is arming teachers a good idea or over-reaction?

No movement in region to go that route to enhance school safety

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Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013 10:00 am

While the idea of arming teachers, as a means to increase school safety, is catching on in some areas, there’s no such momentum in Kootenai County.

“It’s a bad idea — even if teachers are trained,” said Bill Dean, a teacher at NewVision Alternative High School in Post Falls.

“I don’t think that’s giving law enforcement — the professionals who have the training when it comes to using a weapon in a moment of crisis — enough credit.”

Dean isn’t anti-guns — he regularly packs a pistol with him when he goes into the mountains and he’s a Navy veteran — but he believes teachers with guns is the wrong tactic to enhance school safety.

“I understand that kids’ safety is prominent, especially right now (after last month’s Connecticut school tragedy), but think it would be an over-reaction,” he said. “I think everyone needs  to slow down and think this through carefully.

“There’s something in my vocabulary called ‘unintended consequences.’ And, when you’re dealing with parents and kids, it can get emotional at school.”

Dean said that, if it’s deemed school safety needs to be increased, hiring more school resource officers would be a better route.

“Maybe we need to be prepared to hire more officers and pay for it instead of doing everything on the cheap all the time,” he said.

Spencer Wirig, a Coeur d’Alene dentist and the father of four school children, feels differently, and told The Press he prefers that teachers who choose to become proficient with guns be allowed to carry concealed firearms in school.

“If given the choice of sending my kids to one of two schools, one school completely gun-free and the other with an undisclosed number of armed adults, it’s no question where I would send my children,” Wirig said. “Teachers consider themselves guardians of their students; let us give them the means, if they choose to act in that role. I do believe that the deterrent alone will virtually eliminate the need to ever put those tools into use as criminals will look for softer, easier targets.”

Local districts are exploring ways to increase school safety. Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls have added safety enhancements, including more SROs, to their supplemental levy proposals in March.

In Ohio, a firearms group said it’s launching a test program in tactical training for teachers. In Arizona, the attorney general is proposing a change to state law that would allow an educator in each school to carry a gun.

Some gun-rights advocates say teachers can act more quickly than law enforcement in the critical first few minutes to protect children and arming teachers would help with locking down a classroom.

Ann Rosenbaum, who teaches at Post Falls High and New Vision, said she has mixed feelings about arming teachers because of the complexities that would come with it, including the location of the firearm.

“If the weapon has to be locked up in a safe, we then have the issue of how much time it will take to get to that safe and unlock it,” she said. “And what if there is a school shooting and the teacher is out of the classroom at the time?”

Rosenbaum, who was a weapons instructor in the Marines and was raised around guns, said she would feel comfortable carrying a weapon at school and believes she could defend students in a high-pressure incident.

But she said she isn’t like most teachers.

“The majority of teachers have not had the type of training or experience that I have had,” Rosenbaum said. “There are many teachers with weapons experience, but target shooting and hunting are not the same as being in a life or death high-pressure situation where lives are on the line.”

Rosenbaum said the training in schools would need to be extensive and ongoing.

“I don’t think people are thinking about how difficult it would be to safely and effectively arm our teachers,” she said. “The teachers who volunteer to carry a weapon need to be mentally prepared for the fact that they may have to shoot another human being, and there will be innocent children and adults in close vicinity.”

Rosenbaum said schools are easy targets for violence.

“Everyone is looking for an immediate and easy fix to the problem, but there isn’t one,” she said.

Rosebaum believes the root of the problem is a mental health crisis, and that should be the focus. She said more SROs and improved lockdown procedures and safety plans are more logical than arming teachers.

Local school and police officials say there’s no movement to arm teachers.

“This has not come up in any discussions we have had with parents, employees or the board,” said Lakeland Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells. “We are focusing now on preventative measures to continue keeping schools the safest place for our children to be.”

Laura Rumpler, spokeswoman for the Coeur d’Alene School District, said the energy and focus of that administration and board has been on enhancing and improving safety measures in other ways, through capital improvements and the SRO program in partnership with Coeur d’Alene Police.

“We want to be able to have experts respond, the SROs, they’re trained for this,” Rumpler said.

Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Christie Wood oversees the SROs in Coeur d’Alene. The officers have been in Coeur d’Alene schools since 1995, and now have them posted at both traditional high schools, Project Bridge and all three middle schools.

“I feel that compared to other cities across the nation, we’re very progressive with the safety in our schools,” Wood said.

Post Falls Superintendent Jerry Keane said he could easily endorse having an SRO in all of the schools — Post Falls currently has two districtwide and is seeking a third — but there’s too many logistical problems with arming teachers.

“They have tremendous responsibilities as professional educators without having that additional responsibility,” he said.

Post Falls police Chief Scot Haug said arming teachers raises a lot of questions, including the ongoing training and testing that would be needed. Rather, ongoing collaboration between police and the schools on safety needs to happen.

“This planning should become part of our culture, not just discussed when a disaster strikes somewhere across the country,” he said.

Spirit Lake police Chief Gene Marquez said he believes schools already have adequate emergency plans in place.

“I believe if you look at the history of the school systems within Spirit Lake, you will find there were no alarming incidents which would raise the schools to the level of arming the teachers and administrators,” Marquez said. “Our students are being provided with reasonable safety accommodations.”

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  • Old Cop posted at 4:02 pm on Thu, Jan 24, 2013.

    Old Cop Posts: 3259

    Always glad to be of assistance Wilson. Think nothing of it. Corey and ski2work are telling you straight only being nicer than me. If there is just bone between one's ears it makes learning difficult.

  • Corey Greve posted at 8:48 pm on Wed, Jan 23, 2013.

    Corey Greve Posts: 970

    Wilson wrote "For a child in school being aware and reminded that their life may end at any moment because there is enough to fear that their teacher has to be armed will create a generation of uneducated psychopathic people."

    There is irrational fear, and there is fear that creates preparedness and respect. Is it too much of a stretch to think that maybe kids would glean some respect from seeing adults doing what ever is necessary to keep them safe? Do you really believe that kids spending time around armed adults will cause them to become psychopaths?

  • ski2work posted at 12:56 am on Wed, Jan 23, 2013.

    ski2work Posts: 633

    Armed security or allowing appropriately trained teachers to carrying weapons in schools. The police did not prevent Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Ft. Hood...they responded to 911 calls of people being shot dead. The Police are largely a reactive agency, not preventive. It is up to the people to prepare themselves for an atrocity when it occurs, not cower and watch people being slaughtered while waiting on law enforcement. Think about Bonner County, if an incident did occur here, what would be the availability of law enforcement resources? 3 on duty County Sheriff's and 2 or 3 Sandpoint PD? This county hardly has the resources immediately available to lock down a school, tactically search for and subdue an armed or several armed assailants. By the time appropriate reenforcements arrive from Couer Dalene, Spokane, where ever, the press will have mass body counts to report. In the real world, law abiding citizens need to protect themselves and those that can't.

  • wilson posted at 12:12 pm on Tue, Jan 22, 2013.

    wilson Posts: 1133

    My logic is that we as a society have long lasting cultural values that are not to be likened to those of countries or cultures that violence has been a way of life for centuries. Thanks, OC, for recognizing my shortcomings. Does it take one to know one? -- just asking -

  • SugarShane posted at 9:59 am on Tue, Jan 22, 2013.

    SugarShane Posts: 200

    " His attitude is part of the problem not a help in arriving at a solution." Well if that ain't the pot calling the kettle black I don't know what is.

  • wilson posted at 8:02 am on Tue, Jan 22, 2013.

    wilson Posts: 1133

    O C -- what makes you think I give a crap if YOU respect my opinions or not?

  • Old Cop posted at 6:11 am on Tue, Jan 22, 2013.

    Old Cop Posts: 3259

    Wilson's opinions clearly show the extent of his ignorance entwined with what must be an inordinate amount of natural stupidity. Israel has been in the news since 1940. Anybody with anything remotely resembling brains must have heard of the tribulations faced by the Israelis. Surrounded by radical barbarians, they have fought off waves of terrorists over 6 plus decades. Subhumans that glory in shooting children, that exult in using a machine gun to kill children on a school bus, that plant bombs in conjunction with suicide bombers in public places with the sole intent of killing innocent men, women and children. The Israelis face much more in the way of danger than we do. If seeing armed teachers and armed guards were going to create a generation of uneducated psychopathic people there would be several generations of them populating Israel.
    If wilson wants his opinions respected and not be insulted by the likes of me then I suggest he stops talking trash. There is no thought behind his vacuous statements whatsoever. His attitude is part of the problem not a help in arriving at a solution.

  • wilson posted at 7:13 pm on Mon, Jan 21, 2013.

    wilson Posts: 1133

    For a child in school being aware and reminded that their life may end at any moment because there is enough to fear that their teacher has to be armed will create a generation of uneducated psychopathic people. If you think we have trouble now - create this scenario and wait ten years--

  • Old Cop posted at 4:02 pm on Mon, Jan 21, 2013.

    Old Cop Posts: 3259

    I have no problem with responsible citizens being armed, male or female, rich or poor and with or without criminal justice degrees. I absolutely wouldn't deny a teacher the right to carry a gun just because they are a teacher. Likewise nobody should be forced to carry. I am assured that a few teachers have slept with students but I've never heard of one shooting a student. A riot at Kent State in 1970 precipitated an ugly incident where the Ohio National Guard shot and killed 4 students and wounded 9. Had students been armed with more than rocks and teargas there would have been a real bloodbath. A big yes to your question about a lady neutralizing an armed subject. They have, they can and they do. Check this site I have cited and gain some insight so you won't sound so uninformed.

  • Jason Smith posted at 4:04 pm on Sun, Jan 20, 2013.

    Jason Smith Posts: 68

    Arming under paid, unappreciated, teachers that are not peace officers without criminal justice degrees, firearms training, is not logical. Is the campus at schools always closed? Are the students allowed outside? Haven't teachers slept with students? In 1970 @ Kent State University Ohio National Guard shot and killed a student. Maybe we should arm students? Does anyone really believe that one of the ladies from Sandyhook could have neutralized the situation? What next, gun towers, k-9 units, prison guards? How are children able to learn in a intimidating environment?

  • Old Cop posted at 11:01 am on Sun, Jan 20, 2013.

    Old Cop Posts: 3259

    I have a question on the above story. Would Ann Rosenbaum, a teacher, who was a weapons instructor in the Marines and was raised around guns, saying she would feel comfortable carrying a weapon at school and believes she could defend students in a high-pressure incident be allowed to carry a concealed weapon to school now? That's assuming she has a valid permit to carry. I'm asking if it would be legal?