GILLETTE — Three out of four people who responded to a monthlong public survey from the Campbell County School District are in favor of arming certain school staff, but the discussion is far from over.
Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer presented the survey results to the school board at its meeting Wednesday night.
Overall, 1,249 people responded to the survey in the month of June and 76%, or 945, said they support allowing select school staff to carry guns. There were 231, or 18.5%, against it, and about 6% said they need more information.
A survey of school district staff also found support for arming teachers, although not as many were in favor of it. There were 533 employees, or 58%, who were for it, while 196 were against it and 187 felt they needed more information.
The surveys were meant to gauge where the community and staff stand on the issue, Eisenhauer said.
School Board Chairwoman Anne Ochs pointed out that when the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce surveyed the public last year on how it wants Optional 1% Sales Tax money to be spent, school safety ranked high on the list of priorities. Commissioners then used some of the 1% to fund a few more school resource officers for the district’s rural schools.
Ochs said she plans to talk with the city of Gillette about the possibility of hiring more school resource officers for schools in city limits.
Trustees Lisa Durgin and Toni Bell suggested compiling a list of commonly asked questions, coming up with answers and putting it on the school district’s website.
“This is the information people want in order to make their decisions,” Durgin said, adding that the discussion will be much more productive if everyone comes to the table with the same information as opposed to rumors and opinions.
Ochs said the board is working hard to not make this into “a winners versus losers situation.”
“We’re not on two sides,” Durgin said. “We’re on one side: the kids’ side.”
Trustee Ken Clouston said he’s wavered on the issue the last couple of years and he appreciates the public input.
“I don’t think anybody wants to arm people in schools, but in some places they see that as the only option,” he said.
Residents also spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. Justine Schuff, a parent and a former school counselor, said that arming teachers could be devastating for Gillette’s efforts to diversify its economy.
“(It would) seriously hinder the amount of businesses, parents and educators who would consider coming to live and work in our community,” she said, citing a national study that said 73% of educators and 63% of parents oppose arming teachers.
“This will hurt our local school district by forcing families to homeschool, relocate or seek private education,” Schuff said. “My kids would be included in this. I won’t send them to a school that arms teachers.”
Alex Bredthauer said he has two children who will be attending school soon.
By Jonathan Gallardo
Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange