|NC educators seethe at lawmakers’ plan to arm, deputize teachers|
|Published Friday, March 15, 2019|
Two new bills filed by state lawmakers take the heated debate over gun rights and safety to one of its most controversial battlegrounds: the classroom.
House Bill 216 – The School Self-Defense Act – would make it legal for teachers and staff members to carry concealed handguns on school grounds “to respond to acts of violence or imminent threats of violence.”
Senate Bill 192 – The School Security Act of 2019 – would incentivize teachers to carry concealed weapons, provide training and pay raises for teachers who undergo law enforcement training, and make them sworn law enforcement officers, too.
The House bill’s primary sponsors are Reps. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, and Michael Speciale, R-Craven. The Senate bill’s primary sponsors are Senators Jerry Tillman, R-Guilford and Randolph, Ralph Hise and Warren Daniel. Hise and Daniel are Republicans from western North Carolina.
The sponsors of the bill did not return requests for comment from Policy Watch. But Tillman, the majority whip, did speak to Raleigh’s News & Observer after filing the bill last week.
“This is an idea whose time has come,” Tillman told the paper. “With the heightened awareness of the legislature, I believe this bill will see success.” Both bills have appeared – sometimes in slightly different form – in previous sessions, only to die in committee.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is on record opposing any further loosening of the state’s gun laws. Democrats made gains in the General Assembly in November’s election, breaking a GOP supermajority that allowed the Republicans to easily overturn the governor’s vetoes.
The response from the state’s education community to the proposals has been swift and negative.
“We are adamantly opposed to any plan that would put firearms in staff hands in our schools,” said Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE). “It’s just a disaster waiting to happen.”
Tying the proposal to teacher raises — after Cooper last week proposed a 9.1 percent pay raise for teachers over the next two years — was also shocking, Jewell said. “It was just unbelievable to see something like that come out,” Jewell said. “If you want a raise, become a part-time school resource officer? That is not a solution.”
Jewell said resources should instead go to addressing the root cause of violence in our schools, including incidents like the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one year ago. “We see our kids coming to school with greater needs,” Jewell said. “Greater emotional needs, greater health needs, more trauma. And we’re currently ranked 50th in the country in addressing the psychological needs of our students. We don’t need guns. We need more nurses, more counselors, more school psychologists.”
James Martin, chairman of the Wake County Board of Education, agrees. “Arm teachers with books, arm them with professional development” Martin said. “Don’t arm them with guns.”
Both bills propose to provide training to teachers that would go beyond the current requirements for obtaining a concealed carry permit.
Under the School Self-Defense Act, teachers could complete 16 hours of active shooter training under the auspices of a new initiative, to be called the “School Faculty Guardian program.” The program would be developed and administered by the state’s Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, a Department of Justice panel overseeing criminal justice officers. Teachers who carry concealed weapons would also have to undergo annual drug testing.
The School Security Act of 2019 proposes that teachers undergo all applicable in-service training required for law enforcement officers, as well as training established by DOJ law enforcement commissions in how to respond to an active shooter situation.
Even trained and seasoned law enforcement professionals tested under the kinds of stress found in live shooter scenarios don’t have stellar accuracy with their firearms, Martin said. To ask teachers with the minimal training and students all around them to respond in those same situations doesn’t seem wise, he added.
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