Despite Calls To Arm Teachers, Most Schools Opt For Other Measures

Jan 7, 2014

Beginning Wednesday, visitors at schools in Idaho’s Coeur a’Alene School District will be required to check in by video and be buzzed in. It’s one of many security measures parents and students are seeing across the Northwest as a result of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

But one of the most talked about changes — arming teachers — has failed to materialize.

The new entry system is now in place at Ramsey Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene where voters last year approved a $1.4 million school levy to pay for this and other security upgrades. Superintendent Matt Handelman says the measures include surveillance cameras and GPS tracking on school buses.

“We are trying to put as many layers as we can,” he said, “to make our kids and our staff safer.”

But at the urging of local law enforcement, one measure the district isn't taking up is arming staff and teachers. In fact, few districts in the Northwest have chosen to do so, even in areas where the population is hardly gun-squeamish, like north Idaho. The National Rifle Association and others had recommended the step as a measure to stop armed intruders.

“It’s just part of the zeitgeist that people don't want schools to be like armed fortresses,” said University of Oregon professor Jeffrey Sprague who studies school safety and security.

A board member in Sandpoint, Idaho who floated the idea of arming teachers now faces a recall election.

Last fall, the Idaho School Boards Association voted down a proposal to set up a weapons training program for educators. And in Oregon, the Eagle Point schools had planned to circulate a survey to parents asking what they think about training and arming teachers, but that has yet to happen.

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