Task force frowns on arming teachers

Unless there are “extenuating circumstances,” schools should not allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom, according to a state task force studying school safety issues.

But the decision rests solely with local school boards — and at least four districts are considering the move.

This week, the Lake Pend Oreille School District publicly floated the idea, although it will take several months for the school board to make a decision.

Idaho Education News asked the Education Department for a statewide perspective. Anecdotally, the state knows of three other districts considering the idea: Camas County, Garden Valley and Midvale, said Matt McCarter, the Education Department’s staffer assigned to school safety issues.

But as McCarter pointed out, a state task force is urging the districts to urge caution.

“Absent extenuating circumstances, the Idaho Safe and Secure Schools Task Force does not recommend the authorization of school staff to carry weapons on campus for school safety / security purposes,” the group said in a briefing on the issue.

The briefing, available on the Education Department website, says armed teachers can act as a deterrent and help first responders in an emergency. But there are also drawbacks — including the risk of “friendly fire,” the burden of training staff in gun safety, liability concerns and the possibility that teachers may be targeted by attackers.

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Under state law, school boards can authorize anyone, including employees, to carry a firearm on school grounds.

The school safety task force was assembled after the Newtown, Conn., shootings. The group’s job is to review Idaho’s 2007 Statewide Safe and Secure Schools Assessment.

On Wednesday, McCarter will bring a legislative interim committee up to speed on the task force’s work.


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