School board ponders conceal carry policy

Diane Raver | The Herald-TribuneA large crowd attended the SDCSC meeting.

ST. LEON — A large crowd attended the July 12 Sunman-Dearborn Community School Corp. meeting to learn about a possible policy that would allow employees to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

Superintendent Dr. Andrew Jackson explained some of the measures that are being taken to protect students and staff members. “Last year (through an agreement with the Dearborn County Sheriff’s Department), we had one school resource officer at the beginning of the year, and two at the end of the year. This next school year, we will have two full-time resource officers and a third on a rotating basis.”

The DCSD will have a substation at the schools. “The deputies will have 24/7 access to our buildings. It will increase their visibility during and after school .... Currently, all visitors must be buzzed in” to each building.

“We are also looking for a new service to provide additional mental health services for students.”

“At the April school safety forum, several things were discussed. One was for the board to consider allowing employees to carry concealed weapons.”

The proposed policy would require an individual to pass a psychiatric evaluation and be subject to future evaluation at the board’s request. He or she must complete the required training. The weapon must be semi-automatic in nature. No revolver is allowed. Only frangible ammunition may be used. The weapon shall not have a chambered round, and it must be carried on the person at all times and concealed from sight. It may not be stored in the buildings at any time. Training would be provided by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation Inc. Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response (FASTER) training and curriculum.

“We are not arming our teachers,” Jackson stressed. If the policy in enacted, “employees would have to apply and meet certain requirements .... It is voluntary, and they must have extensive training.” Applications will be approved by the superintendent and board members. If approved, persons will be certified for three years.

“The FASTER training not only teaches you how to approach a shooter, but includes triage” and how to render medical aid immediately. The corporation will maintain a confidential registry of staff members authorized to carry under this policy. This list will be shared with local law enforcement.

President Michael Norman wondered if instead of being recertified after three years, “what about having training on an annual basis?”

Member James Graf agreed, “It seems like three years is a little long to re-up your skills.”

Norman pointed out, “We need to investigate a little further.”

Attendees had the opportunity to voice their opinions about the proposed policy.

Nicole Campbell, who has three boys in the district and has taught in the Ohio school system for 17 years, was against the notion of arming staff members. “As a mother and fourth-grade teacher, I’m horrified at school shootings. Guns do not belong in school settings.

“The presence of guns adds an unpredictable element. It places educators and students at risk and puts more pressure on overworked professionals ... This decision (to arm employees) should be driven by data, not fear and frustration .... The data tells us the presence of a gun at school makes our children less safe.”

Quoting Nelson Mandela, she said, “‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ That’s the only weapon I want in the schools.”

Liz Molata, a representative for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, pointed out, “Schools are meant to be places of sanctuary for children .... If lawmakers want to prevent school shootings, they must prohibit people with a criminal history or mental health history from having access to guns.”

“The idea of having guns in our school scares me a lot,” commented Elise Stone, an East Central High School senior.

Pam Delisle, an ECHS library assistant, revealed the staff was “required to participate in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training, and I’m glad I did ... (but) what bothers me is I really have no recourse against an active shooter .... When you barricade yourself, you’re hoping the shooter does not find you because if you think it will stop a bullet, you’re sadly mistaken.”

“It has been suggested we just need to pay more attention to students. I watch 600-800 students come through the door every morning (of the school year), and I watch what every student is carrying .... I was living about 10 miles from Columbine when that shooting took place. Those shooters brought their guns into the school in duffel bags, so if a student has a duffel bag, I talk to him/her .... This is not the school of 40 years ago. We have to be realistic with what we are dealing with. It is not a perfect world. We have kids dealing with things we have never dealt with before.”

Referring to those who were against arming school employees, she maintained, “I respect your opinions, but understand you are probably not going to be in this building when a school shooting could occur.”

Other attendees had questions: Who’s going to decide when and where employees who carry a weapon shoot at a potential suspect? How often will they go through training? Is there a possibility of having a school resource officer in each building? Is there a maximum number of employees who could carry a gun? Can metal detectors be installed?

Konnie Couch, Aurora, a certified National Rifle Association instructor, reported, “Some of your concerns are very legitimate, but I disagree with having persons only train once a year or every three years. They need to be trained monthly.”

In addition, “getting a metal detector is not going to solve the problem because there has to be a person monitoring it .... It gives a false sense of security .... The problem isn’t guns in schools. The problem is someone getting into the building with guns.”

Dennis Siebert looked at the issue a different way. “Imagine us here today because there was a shooting and 20-30 kids and teachers were killed. It’s about reality and what could happen. I commend the board for looking at ways to keep our kids safe. The hardest part is starting, and I expect the board will look at ways to protect these schools ... (but) this is not going to be solved today.”

North Dearborn Elementary School teacher Melissa Dennis said, “I see the pros and cons of this issue .... but the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Graf told attendees, “It’s not us against you. We’re trying to be proactive so we don’t become a statistic .... Right now, I don’t know where I am on this, but we represent the community on this board.”

Diane Raver can be contacted at diane.raver@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.

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