Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Guns in school legislation is ill-conceived and potentially harmful

Dr. Geoff Thomas copy2

Currently, Idaho school district boards are permitted to enact policies which allow for district employees, with permission of school and district administration and the Board, to carry concealed weapons. Numerous Idaho districts have enacted such policies.

Recently, the house passed H415, a bill written by the National Rifle Association and sponsored by Rep. Ted Hill (R-Eagle), was presented absent any consultation with the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association, or the Idaho Association of School Administrators and Idaho’s School Resource Officers all of which opposed the bill.

According to the legislation, School Board members or administrators do not need to be informed of who is carrying guns in district buildings. Rep. Hill shockingly could not understand why school boards would want to be be part of the information sharing, even though they have statutory responsibility for the safety of children in their districts.

Under this legislation, parents would also have no knowledge of which teachers and staff were carrying weapons. Parents also would have no ability to request information regarding staff who were carrying.

As a gun owner myself, I know firsthand that many hours on a practice range are required to become proficient with a handgun. This bill neglects to ensure that employees carrying guns will be required to pass a firearms course or to possess a basic proficiency in how to properly carry and shoot with their weapon.

A school gun incident, will be the most stressful situation an educator will face in their career. Will the teacher or staff member holding the gun be able to react calmly and remain clear headed during the situation when their adrenaline is in overdrive?

What will happen if the teacher or staff member has a gun in their hand when law enforcement arrives? Will the police be able to know the difference between the good guys and bad guys? What if an innocent employee is accidentally killed by law enforcement?

What will be the long term consequences if an educator makes a wrong decision or aims poorly and wounds; or heaven forbid takes the life of an innocent child? Will the legislature financially cover the subsequent law suits that will occur against the teacher and school district?

One representative indicated that his district’s Superintendent had already indicated that the district’s liability insurer intends to drop their coverage if the bill becomes law. Was no thought given to this potentiality?

Carrying teachers and administrators placed on probation by the School Board would be allowed to continue to carry weapons, as would classified employees (bus drivers, playground supervisors, teacher’s aides, among others) facing dismissal.

School boards or administrators will have no authority to limit which employees can carry, nor are there methods for Boards of Trustees to revoke privileges, if this bill becomes law.

It is telling that the Idaho teachers, administrators, school boards associations and law enforcement officials did not and do not want this bill. The very people most directly impacted by a school shooting are not seeking for an opportunity to have employees carry.

It bears repeating that as was pointed out during committee and floor debate, no educators or other educational or safety experts asked for House Bill 415. It is entirely the product of cloistered thinking that refused to consider differing points of view other than that of the bill’s author and his powerful lobby partner.

An important question is, why isn’t the legislature simply funding additional resources officers to provide properly trained and certified security to all Idaho school districts? Why won’t legislators listen to Idaho teachers, administrators, school board members and law enforcement?

The $50 million dollars promised for vouchers could easily cover the expense for additional law enforcement personnel and enhanced school security.

Rep. Hill and other legislators need to rethink and remove this ill-conceived and potentially harmful legislation.

Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas is the former superintendent of the Madison School District and was a member of the governor's Task Force for Improving Education. He now serves as an assistant professor at Idaho State University.

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