RANCHESTER — Several Sheridan County School District 1 board members had reservations about allowing educators to conceal-carry firearms on school campuses. At the Wednesday meeting, SCSD1 board members sounded off and heard from community stakeholders concerning district staff members wielding firearms.
The SCSD1 board did not take any official action on the matter, and members did not indicate whether any future discussions or actions would take place.
Two board members verbally questioned creating a policy to allow staff to conceal-carry.
Penny Barken, an SCSD1 board member who formerly worked as a teacher, said she would not feel comfortable with staff carrying weapons on school property.
“I don’t think that guns should be in the classroom,” Barken said. “I think it’s too risky to have someone in our school with a gun.”
Chairman Gary Reynolds said even with the required amount of training, he remains skeptical of the effectiveness of teachers wielding firearms on campus.
Discussions stemmed from the passing of House Bill 194, which provides districts the option to create policies that would allow teachers and faculty to carry guns. The bill, passed in March, requires staff members who choose to carry to complete a certified concealed-carry training program.
Under the statutes, the firearm would either have to remain on the person or in a lockbox at all times. Districts would have the final say as to who could wield firearms.
Under the bill, staff members allowed to carry firearms include the superintendent, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals, teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, teacher’s aides (paraprofessionals), coaches, business managers, secretaries or administrative assistants, janitors and bus drivers.
Community member Steve Dees told the SCSD1 board during public comment that there are no statistics backing the claim that teachers wielding firearms would deter a person from committing a mass shooting because a similar policy has not been emplaced.
However, he argued statistics suggest there is a higher risk for people to be injured if there is a firearm in any situation.
Rep. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, disagreed. Speaking both as a legislator and a parent of children who attend SCSD1, he said the district is taking a larger risk by not allowing firearms in school, claiming that a person may be deterred when thinking about committing a mass shooting.
He argued many mass shootings take place in gun-free zones and was concerned with the response time of law enforcement to get to rural districts in the case of an event.
“The idea behind the legislation is, especially in rural districts, to have a policy in place to give those willing to take that responsibility and go through the training to be able to protect our children,” Biteman said.
Biteman voted for the bill during the 2017 session.
Board members told Biteman to fight for additional funding to place additional resource officers in schools. Biteman said due to tough economic times, adding additional officers remains unlikely.
The district currently has a policy that prohibits firearms on campus. If no further action is taken, the district’s current policy will remain.