Armed school teachers.
Is it a disaster waiting to happen or a Godsend? It depends. Here are my recommendations for this type of armed response in schools:
- Before there is a decision as to the path to take, make certain legal counsel is on board day one.
- What standards are going to be used to develop the hiring, training, and supervision as well as policy and procedures? There are no industry standards for this approach. The “standard” will be whatever the school district adopts unless standards are established through the government. That means your school district and its employees fully own the program. Liability for friendly fire, inadequate response, over response, failure to properly deploy, failure to adequately vet, train, and supervise need to be fully understood. A school teacher with a gun does not get a free pass if they shoot a student.
- Should all volunteers just be allowed to participate? This is a standard that needs establishment. Are the volunteers mentally and emotionally able to take another person’s life? Are they able to disregard their personal safety (as a trained teacher)? Can they focus? These questions will need to be assessed by professionals. Law Enforcement mentality is needed.
- What will be the standard firearms(s). Will there be matching firepower against an AR 15 or AK 47? Which handgun will they need to qualify with. Yes, they will have to qualify and re-certify.
- So you have them selected, vetted, and range-qualified. Now what? Drills of course. How much time and money is the school district willing to spend to constantly train BOTH the school and the teacher? This is clearly not a one and done. Are they working on force suppression or counter attack? How do they communicate internally and with law enforcement? Who’s in charge?
- Is the team “on duty” from the time the first student arrives until the lights go out? What about sporting events, plays, concerts?
- How does the security team identify themselves during the chaos? Do they wear a red armband or are they wearing ballistic vests with SECURITY emblazoned across them? If they are the quick reaction team, should they then be wearing their gear all the time?
- Is every school administrator on board…under penalty of termination if not. Where is the stick for the carrot? What information will your PTO want? How will the media be handled>
- Who has oversight? Who is going to be accountable (not responsible) for ensuring the plans meet the standards?
This is far more complex than the issues I have raised. Sure there are schools in the country that have armed teachers. Are they the good ol’ boys who are huntin’ buddies or are they a cohesive team? Just wearing a gun will never be enough.
The last consideration I want to mention is that most schools have open campuses. Doors aren’t locked or they are propped open to facilitate kids and teachers moving around campus. The buildings are porous, the office can’t see those who enter, and the perimeter is nothing more than a sidewalk. Should there be capital spent on an integrated security camera system and card access system? There must be a deterrent level, a detection level, and a denial level. Once the bad guy is in the building the role is to save remaining lives. How many will be killed before an effective response? The security planning aspect must fully compliment the desired end results. That will require hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Time and money. That’s all this requires…right? No. This requires so much planning and preparation that there is one thing that must be top of mind: Once you start this, you can never discontinue it.
I’ve been in the security and law enforcement arena since 1975. I have designed active shooter programs from the planning and analysis side. I have an encyclopedia of knowledge related to security liability. Even the thought of undertaking this approach is mind-numbing as the requirements and commitment is greater than anything a school will do. This is clearly not for a dusty 3 ringed binder.
The above is not intended to provide legal advice. It is intended to broaden the understanding and complexity of the planning considerations. There are no standards. Consult with both civilian and law enforcement advisors and don’t leave out the attorneys.