Throughout the country, at least 14 states arm teachers with firearms on school grounds, with another 16 states giving local school boards the authority to set a campus carry policy for school staff, decisions that have increasingly been made after an onslaught of school shootings. Last week, the Lee County School Board voted unanimously to allow teachers to carry firearms at school to defend against potential threats, the first county in Virginia to do so.
“The only way to fight a gun, if somebody comes through these doors with a gun to shoot our students, is with another gun,” school board Chairman Michael Kidwell said in a report from The Blaze.
The school board also considered other options for increasing school security, including metal detectors and additional school resource officers. However, the solutions turned out to requiring funding the district didn’t have, but board members felt they had to do something to ensure the safety of students.
“At least it gives us a chance,” said board member Rob Hines. “If we sat there and did nothing, I couldn’t sleep at night. At least we’re trying to do something.”
The Washington Post reports that reactions to the decision in the rural county have been “very positive.” The measure for arming teachers will be coming into play next school year throughout the district’s 11 schools, possibly in October.
Hines said that 50 of the district’s 700 full-time employees are said to apply to carry a firearm. Once teachers and staff are chosen, they must go through a screening and training process before being allowed to have a gun at school. The guns and training will be paid for by the district and the names of those carrying a firearm will not be disclosed to the public.
Kidwell said school employees would seek circuit court approval to be deemed “conservators of the peace,” a designation the system believes will exempt the employees from state law prohibiting firearms on school campuses. Nevertheless, officials from Lee County claim the approach has solid legal standing and do not expect any challenges from the courts.
Lee County Superintendent Brain Austin said, “The last thing we want to do is spend taxpayer money on legal fees defending something that the board and the administration believe is good for our community.”