Study: Idaho most tolerant for guns in schools

A recent nationwide study shows that Idaho is perhaps the most tolerant state in America when it comes to allowing weapons in schools.

Last month, the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit nationwide policy-research group, released its State Policy Responses to School Violence report.

In the wake of recent mass school shootings, researchers compared four categories of policies tied to weapons in schools across the country, including states that allow:

  • School security personnel to carry weapons.
  • School employees to carry weapons.
  • Concealed-carry permit holders to carry weapons.
  • Schools or districts to give individuals permission to carry weapons.

Of all 50 states, only Idaho qualified in every category. Some states — Minnesota, Wisconsin and Kentucky — did not qualify in any category.

ECS researcher Jennifer Thomsen, who helped conduct the study, said she was not aware of Idaho’s outlier status until contacted by Idaho Ed News.

Though Thomsen called Idaho’s across-the-board qualifications “interesting,” she cautioned against firm conclusions that no other state provides equal leeway for weapons in schools.

Some states’ school-gun policies are very explicit, while others’ are harder to categorize, Thomsen said.

Thomsen also pointed to two other similarly focused studies: one from the National Conference of State Legislators, which largely corroborated the ECS report; and another from the Giffords Law Center, which placed Idaho among states prohibiting guns in k-12 schools, with some “specified exceptions.”

Idaho law lets local school boards implement firearm policies as “an appropriate part of a program, an event, activity or other circumstance.”

Idaho schools use a range of safety protocols, including guns. Currently, at least four Idaho schools either allow certain staffers to conceal their own firearms or grant access to school-owned guns in emergencies.

While students gear up for summer break, trustees and superintendents across Idaho will be considering ways to both introduce and fund heightened safety measures. Some measures will add more guns in Idaho schools.

Last month, the North Idaho’s Lakeland School District announced its plans to hire an armed guard for its Athol Elementary School. Lakeland administrators say the hire is a likely precursor to 11 other armed guards to be stationed at other schools throughout the district.

Despite Idaho’s emphasis on guns, Thomsen stressed that the ECS study was a broad look at state policies, not an actual tally of schools or districts putting the policies into practice.

The New York Times recently took a nationwide look at schools that arm teachers.

Click here for one Idaho district’s policy about using force and arming teachers.

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