Wyoming school board weighs arming teachers - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Wyoming school board weighs arming teachers

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CODY - The mass shooting at a Florida school last week is prompting conversation at Tuesday’s board meeting in Cody, where Park County School leaders are weighing whether to allow staff to be armed at school.

"Last week's tragedy in Florida has had an impact on our community,” said Park County School Board Chair Kelly Simone. “I think people are really watching and considering what is the best path to secure schools and keep them as safe as we can.”

The Park County School District board will have a first reading Tuesday on a draft of a policy that allows staff to carry concealed firearms at school.

School boards across Wyoming were tasked with crafting policies related to arming staff, after the 2017 state legislature approved House Bill 194. The law went into effect in July and districts received non-regulatory guidance on how to implement the law.

Simone said in a survey sent to staff in the district, nearly 30 percent of the 285 respondents strongly disagree with arming staff.

In total, 39 percent of respondents supported arming staff and 42 percent disagree with the plan.

The survey yielded an 81 percent response rate.

“It’s very divided,” said Simone. “I think the common ground for whether you oppose or support this measure is we just want our students and staff safe."

The proposed policy at Park County School District 2, which includes seven schools in Cody, provides that staff may be authorized to carry a concealed firearm and ammunition on school property after completing training.

The draft of the policy reads: “An employee who receives approval by the Board to carry a firearm pursuant to this policy shall only fire his or her firearm if he or she reasonably perceives that his or her life, or the life or lives of others, are in imminent risk of death or serious bodily injury.”

Under the proposal, only staff members who are under contract and have been employed by the district for at least two years could apply to conceal and carry a weapon on school property.

The applicant would also have to submit to a psychological suitability exam, according to the proposal, as well as undergo drug and alcohol testing.

The staff members approved by the Board of Trustees to conceal and carry a firearm would have to complete no less than 24 hours of training, where they would learn firearm safety, maintenance, used of “ready positions,” techniques for engaging multiple threats, and weapon retention.

The approved staff members would also have to complete the WLEA Close Range Pistol Proficiency Course, as well as eight hours of scenario-based training.

Included in the training is education on life-saving medical care for gunshot victims, according to the proposal.

The ammunition selected by the approved staff member would have to be tested for function during initial training and documented on the staff member’s application packet.

According to the proposal, all expenses for the testing and training will be paid for by the district.

The proposal allows for the superintendent to suspend the program at any time for any reason.

Only about 13 percent of respondents, or 37 staff members, said they would actually apply to conceal and carry a firearm at school.

A survey sent to 2,300 randomly selected community members closes Feb. 28.

Most policy proposals undergo two readings, according to Simone, but the board has decided to hold a third reading on this issue.

“It’s very controversial,” said Simone. “One thing that's important for people to know about our district is we have done a lot of work on this policy, controlling access to buildings, upgrading infrastructure, collaborating with law enforcement, doing drills, so this conversation is timely and important and I think our community knows that."

The second reading is set for March and the third reading is scheduled for April.

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