KINGSBURG, Calif. – Members of the Kingsburg Joint Union High School District approved a plan to arm up to five staff members designated by the superintendent as a means of protecting against armed intruders.
“I am a proponent of the Second Amendment, and I’m also the biggest proponent of protecting the kids,” superintendent Randy Morris told the Fresno Bee.
The school board approved a policy at its board meeting Monday night that allows Morris to authorize up to five district employees to carry concealed firearms on campus if they meet several criteria, including possession of a concealed carry permit with no restrictions, completion of specialized training and insurance requirements, and a signed use agreement, Patch.com reports.
“District documents also indicate the superintendent will take things like the employee’s conduct, discipline record and evaluations into account when considering him or her for approval of carrying a gun on campus,” according to the news site.
Morris told ABC 30 “the expectation of the superintendent is, given the situation you will protect staff and students with your firearm that you’ve been granted permission to carry.”
Board members suggested the policy after a terrorist attack in San Bernardino in December. Morris said some staff have already expressed interest in stepping up to protect Kingsburg High School’s 1,200 students. Rumors that the new gun policy stemmed from an actual threat are false, the superintendent told the Bee, adding that board members simply wanted to be proactive.
“This was about identifying that (a shooting) is a possibility, and since it is, we should give ourselves this option,” Morris said. “A lot of folks have said, ‘What is going on? It’s a pretty easy-going place – no fences, no gates.’ But it’s not in response to anything, and that’s hard for people to understand.”
Local law enforcement helped district officials create the plan, and referenced the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting as an example of violence that could have been prevented with armed staff.
“Imagine if one of those teachers was also armed. They could have stopped that. … The loss of life would’ve been much less,” Kingsburg police chief Neil Dadian told the Bee. “My opinion? If a staff member wants to put themselves at risk like that, I’m all for it. I think what they’re doing is everything they possibly can to protect their students, and God bless them for that.”
“It would be comforting, or nice to know, that somebody was on campus armed and could stop the violence,” Dadian told ABC 30.
Students and parents seem to have mixed reactions to the new policy.
“Now we are going to add something else for teachers to think about? Shooting people, really?” grandmother Mary Lou Swenning told the Bee. She likened the school district to the “Wild West.”
“That’s a difficult thing for a police officer to do who’s been trained to do this, and you have a split second to decide if you should kill this person or not,” she said. “I wouldn’t want that responsibility, and I wouldn’t want it for our teachers.”
School officials do not plan on identifying which teachers will carry firearms and which won’t, which terrifies Kingsburg parent Tamara Norris and her daughter.
“I’m wondering how the board might interact with the kids in regards to the level of anxiety that will potentially occur for some of them. I understand why you would not publicly announce who is carrying, but (my daughter) is wondering, ‘Who can I trust?’ ” Norris said. “It makes her very nervous. I can’t imagine she’s the only one.”
Kingsburg High School student Andrew Vorhees said most at the school think that arming staff is a smart move.
“I think most were shocked to hear, but a majority seem to be for it. My philosophy is I’d rather have a gun and not use it than not have a gun and need to use it,” Vorhees told the Bee. “I think it’ll be a good thing, but obviously, as cliché as it sounds, with great power comes great responsibility.”
The Kingsburg district is at least the second school district to arm teachers in recent years. Morris said Folsom Cordova Unified schools also employ armed staff.