Caution arises on guns in schools
If there’s going to be a person with a gun in her children’s schools, Sarah Shrader wants to make sure that gun comes with a badge.
Shrader, a member of local parent group Save Our Students and District 51’s new School Security and Safety Work Group, said at the group’s fourth meeting Monday she is not comfortable with the idea of having volunteers or teachers carry guns in schools. Rather, she told the work group during an hour-long presentation on Save Our Students’ behalf that the 270-member group would like to see more school resource officers in Grand Valley schools and the creation of a volunteer force of unarmed school “liaisons.”
The liaison job title already exists but the liaison staff was cut from eight to four district employees two years ago. There is currently one liaison in every District 51 high school who makes sure doors are secure, redirects students back to class and works as eyes and ears for school resource officers.
“The connection with students is the most important tool they have,” Shrader said.
If more adults in schools connect with students, Shrader’s hope is that students who show warning signs for committing a school shooting such as withdrawal, suicidal thoughts or being a victim of bullying will get help or at least find a connection that might change their mind. Save Our Students also endorses greater use of anti-bullying curriculum in the district and possibly hiring a psychologist to share advise on addressing student behavioral issues.
Save Our Students founding member Rob Pierce said the group does not endorse work group members Rich Bacher and David Cox’s proposals of allowing teachers with conceal and carry permits to possess guns in schools or allowing trained volunteers to patrol schools while armed. Pierce said the proposals leave too much room for errors, including the possibility of a student getting a gun away from a teacher or volunteer, a gun being fired during a misunderstanding or by accident, or a person freezing up during a crisis and getting shot before they can fight back.
Pierce used several data points in his argument, including a statistic that people with a gun are 4.5 times more likely to be shot than a person without a gun and that there is a one in 76,000 chance of a person living in a home with a firearm will be accidentally shot. Cox said trying to draw a comparison between shootings in the home and shootings in a school where a gun is being watched by its owner and several people are present is unfair.
“A teacher would never have the weapon out of their sight. I don’t think it’s a legitimate comparison,” Cox said.
Pierce said he wasn’t able to get apples-to-apples data on armed volunteer incidents but tried to find the next best stats. Group member Mike Lowenstein said he found the comparison “a bit unsettling.”
“I think most of your examples are made up,” he said.
Lowenstein later asked Pierce and Shrader if they would be willing to pay higher taxes to pay for their proposal. They said they would.
During an interview with Save Our Students members last week, Pierce told The Daily Sentinel he feels a “vocal minority” is pushing for the armed volunteer and teacher idea.
“This is monopolizing the safety committee’s time,” he said.
Amy Agapito, also of Save Our Students, said budget cuts may make it harder for schools to identify students who need help before they consider becoming a shooter, another reason she endorses the group’s proposals.
“I think the safety committee should consider all the safety options,” she said.
That doesn’t mean the group will favor all of those options. Fellow Save Our Students member Rachelle Kreie said she’s worried about anyone with less training than a school resource officer handling a gun in school.
“I just think bringing guns into schools in an untrained individuals hands is dangerous,” she said. “A volunteer may misunderstand a situation or a strong teenager could get their gun away.”
Bacher said at the meeting he would want volunteers to get “extensive training” that goes beyond conceal and carry instruction. He also said he hopes people don’t have concerns about the strength of any volunteers who may be older.
“I can assure you I know many citizens over 50 that could out-run most people,” he said.