Oklahoma law already allows School Resource Officers to carry firearms in public schools in the Sooner State, but a new law will now allow some teachers to carry as well. Reuters reports that Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill this week that would allow school districts to authorize the carrying of a handgun onto school property by school staff. Oklahoma House Bill 2014 allows school boards to authorize specific staff members who have an armed security guard license or hold a valid reserve peace officer certification . . .
State Representative Jeff Coody (R-Grandfield), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, was quoted as saying that “a school district’s board of education can designate a school employee to attend an armed security guard training program or reserve peace officer program and pay for the training.”
Some people in the Tulsa school system are experiencing torqued undies over the new law. And the vice president of the Tulsa teachers union was one of them.
Shawna Mott-Wright, Vice President of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, thinks the new law is a “horrible idea,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “It’s not necessary. We already have our own police force, full of trained people. This is what they do. Just like I’m the professional in the classroom, they are the professionals in their field. They cannot teach like I can, and I cannot carry a weapon like they can.”
As mom to an 8 and a 9-year-old, Mott-Wright says the law causes her concern for the safety of her children. “The training required for teachers to meet the requirements of this law and carry handguns is not extensive enough,” she says.
Ms. Mott-Wright’s criticism is unfounded. She opposes the law in part because her employer, the Tulsa Public School System, has its own police department. It’s not clear how many public school systems in Oklahoma have the resources to establish their own departments, but I suspect that Tulsa is in the extreme minority there.
While it’s wise for persons who carry a firearm while working a full five-day week in a public school to have training on subjects concerning weapons retention and de-escalation at a minimum, that’s a far cry from saying that a person who works in a rural school without the resources to establish its own police force — let alone post resource officers — should be denied the ability to make use of the personnel that it does have.
UPDATE: While writing this article, I had sent an e-mail to Shawna Mott-Wright asking whether or not she thought the Oklahoma law might be more appropriate for rural districts that could not set up their own police forces. I had also asked her to clarify why she was more comfortable with police officers carrying firearms around students versus reserve police officers / certified armed security guards. Ms. Mott-Wright responded after the article had already been submitted. Her answers are below.
1. I cannot speak for rural areas, just as I would hope they wouldn’t try to speak for me.
2. Full-time law enforcement officers receive more training than is required by this legislation. Furthermore, I have greater confidence in the skills and ability of a person whose job – all day every day- entails working in a law enforcement capacity. If a school needs a law enforcement presence, a full-time law enforcement officer is the appropriate person to fill that role.
If we are concerned about improving the safety of our students, our resources would be well spent investing in mental health services for our students who need them, and hiring enough counselors to provide our students with the individual attention they need in times of trouble. Beyond that, if our lawmakers believe we need law enforcement officers in our schools, they should provide the funding to hire them, rather than expecting educators to take on that responsibility.
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.