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School District Talks Arming Teachers

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By Steven Sandberg

EAGLE POINT, Ore. – All options were on the table Wednesday as Eagle Point school officials met with the community to talk about allowing teachers to carry guns in schools.

The Weapons Safety Committee met for the first time at a public meeting Wednesday night to discuss the idea. The panel is made up of parents, teachers, police, and weapons trainers. Currently the district has no policy regarding concealed weapons in schools.

In a school board meeting on June 12, board chair Scott Grissom recommended allowing staff to bring concealed weapons on school grounds. Grissom said it could be a deterrent to school violence.

“I think in the times we’re living in right now, we need to step it up in terms of security at schools,” Grissom said.”

Supporters of the idea said many school shootings end before law enforcement arrives on scene. They said a teacher or staff member with a gun could stop a shooter before more people get hurt.

Eric Yarborough, who runs Lacrosse Firearms Training, said teachers could receive handgun training to make them better equipped to handle an active shooter situation.

“You just cannot hand out firearms without providing them training to make them safe, make sure that they understand how to operate the firearms,” he said.

A number of parents expressed concern that allowing guns on campus would put their children at risk. They said teachers are not properly trained to handle a deadly emergency, and expressed doubt that arming teachers would keep kids or teachers safe.

“How would police tell the difference between a shooter and a teacher with a gun?” Asked Misty Burcham.

Some parents said teachers already have to keep their students hidden and calm during a lockdown. They doubted teachers could do that if they were holding a gun. Several parents were also worried that a teacher with minimal training would not have the right instincts or accuracy in an emergency.

“It’s not appropriate for teachers to be involved in the security of the schools,” said Terry Marks, a retired police officer with two children in the district. “That needs to be in the hands of people who are in that business: the police.”

Other parents said the district should focus its attention on limiting public access to school grounds.

Eagle Point Police Chief Vern Thompson and representatives from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office were also in attendance. Sheriff’s Captain Terry Larson, speaking on behalf of Sheriff Mike Winters, said teachers using guns in a deadly situation should be a “last resort.”

Sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Whipple said law enforcement goes through a rigorous training to be ready to respond to active shooter scenarios.

“We train all the time, and I still think we don’t train enough,” he said.

“Even cops are average shooters. That’s a concern of mine,” added Thompson

Thompson said he wants to see more discussion on the topic before the committee makes a decision, but said that children need to be protected.

“I haven’t heard enough to think student safety would be enhanced [by arming teachers],” he said. “But if you deter one [incident], you’re successful.”

The school district recently teamed with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office to install a high-tech security system at Shady Cove School. The technology puts a “panic-button” in each classroom, and when pushed, it connects directly to the sheriff’s office in real time, and allows deputies to monitor the situation with cameras and remotely control door locks and navigational lights above doors.

The system would normally cost a school district about $100,000 per school, but Shady Cove’s system was paid for by the sheriff’s office with the drug forfeiture money. It was only installed at Shady Cove. District officials have expressed an interest in having the technology installed at other schools, but said it would be difficult to pay for, and said there are no immediate plans for other schools to receive the system.

At Wednesday’s meeting, district officials said that Future Concepts, which developed the technology, would be willing to install remote-controlled lock boxes in classrooms, which could contain a gun, mace, or other safety items. The sheriff’s office could lock or unlock the boxes from its dispatch center during an emergency. Some parents at Wednesday’s meeting expressed concern that children could potentially access the weapons.

Despite the meeting being open to the public, TV news cameras were not allowed inside. NewsWatch 12 was repeatedly denied requests to bring a camera in, and a sign was posted outside the meeting saying cameras were not allowed. Typically, public meetings permit the use of recording devices. The original agenda and public meeting notice about the meeting did not mention a ban on cameras, and NewsWatch 12 was only informed of the ban after seeking an interview about the story.

School District 9 Human Resources Director Allen Barber cited the district’s lawyer, and said the district could prohibit cameras inside the meeting. Barber said he felt the presence of news cameras would somehow interfere with the discussion.

“We want those volunteer members to be able to have an open and honest discussion,” Barber said. “And I think that a news camera or two or three could inhibit the open and honest dialogue.”

Public comment was also not allowed at the committee meeting. The agenda said anyone who was not on the committee who attempted to speak without being recognized by the chair would be asked to leave.

4 comments

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  1. chad rogers says:

    WOW U POLE R REALLY IDIOT GUNS AND TEACHERS LIKE A GROUP OF KIDS COUDLT TAKE AWAY THE GUN????? U D A

  2. Bobby says:

    I understand the fear that people have about school safety but face it teachers are talkers not hunters or killers, I don’t think a teacher who loves teaching could take the life of perhaps one of their own students without destroying their own soul in the process. In today’s world we have become so fearful of what could happen that we over look what we are teaching our children and in the process, we are teaching them fear the fear of the unknown, the media today gives us the news and we react in many different ways. I am not against guns at all but those who choose to use them to take a life better be prepared, a class on gun safety only teaches you how to use a gun it does not give you the mentality and preparation of the end consequences.

  3. Tim says:

    Sure this has everything to do with the saftey of your kid’s. But you parent’s cant come or post question’s to them. WOW im pulling my kid’s out of that school dist. and going to medford,

  4. Concerned says:

    Why not let the teachers & staff decide if they can handle a gun or not, they should go to some inexpensive/free training and they’ll realize that using a gun is NOT rocket science. Most people don’t need extensive training and guns are easy to aim especially at close ranges. Everyone doesn’t have to have a large heavy hi-recoil 45 either, even a low-recoil lightweight 22 is effective. Every other staff/teacher armed with a 22 would be a guaranteed shooter stopper. Why were the sheriff officers discouraging the school’s safety? Like many other police & sheriffs across the country, they should be encouraging everyone to have a gun as a safe option. Why not have the staff carry a gun on their person in a holster, so kids wouldn’t have access to it, even keep it unchambered with the safety on if they want? Why do they have to press a button to start the video recording – the video system should be a loop system that is on all the time? Why is the video stored at the sheriff’s office and not locked up on-site or better yet wirelessly broadcast to a secret nearby location? Why would they suggest having gun lockboxes that are remotely unlocked by the sheriff’s office, why can’t the staff have the combination? Why would you want the sheriff’s office to be able to remotely lock the school doors — why wouldn’t the staff just lock the doors themselves? Also please tell me that the doors don’t lock the kids & staff inside – they should be able to exit at any time! Red flag – I would not let my kids go to this school one more day. This sounds like another Sandy Hook in the making, and the name Shady Cove sounds like “Shady Hoax”, the internet name people call Sandy Hook. Take your kids out of this school or fix the security problems.

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