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Officials: Keep guns out of schools

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The question of whether teachers and other school staff should carry guns at school became a nationwide debate topic in recent weeks.

And in local communities, parents have brought up the idea in meetings about school security, school board members have discussed the concept and school officials have talked over the what-if scenarios with local police.

But school superintendents say they would want to keep guns out of their schools, except when carried by police or security officers.

The idea of arming teachers has been discussed across the nation since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and while the idea has been talked about locally, administrators don’t want to try it.

“I just think having, encouraging guns to be at school is not something I think is a wise decision,” said Clark-Pleasant interim Superintendent Becky Courtney-Knight.

Indiana law allows school faculty or staff members to carry a weapon if they are designated as a security officer by the school corporation, which could allow schools to permit anyone to carry a firearm.

And some schools have discussed that idea since the shooting in December that killed 20 children.

School administrators at Clark-Pleasant discussed the topic with Whiteland police, and the group decided that the idea had flaws, Courtney-Knight said.

She was worried students could overpower a teacher and take the weapon. And, if police were called to the school, she wouldn’t want officers to enter a building not knowing how many guns were inside or who potentially was carrying them.

The wide range of what-if scenarios that could come from allowing guns in schools also was a sticking point for Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools. Superintendent Matt Prusiecki said the idea was discussed with school board members but is not being seriously considered.

“It’s hard to prepare for all the different scenarios, whatever measures you take, if you have the best intentions in mind. Some scenarios could cause adverse effects,” he said.

Instead, school districts will continue to rely on local police and school security officers to protect students.

At Center Grove, the school district has its own police force, with officers who carry guns. And at Franklin schools, local police visit the school buildings, and the school district also has school resource officers, or off-duty police officers who also carry guns.

Other school districts, including Clark-Pleasant and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson, are looking into whether they could add security officers.

For Clark-Pleasant, one issue is the cost. Courtney-Knight estimated equipment and training for one officer could cost as much as $500,000.

Community members brought up arming teachers at both school safety forums hosted by Franklin schools. But the idea was quashed by administrators because school officials felt there was no way the school could ensure teachers or staff would have the right amount of training.

Implementing such a plan wouldn’t be as simple as telling teachers they could bring a pistol to class, said Bill Doty, Franklin schools director of operations.

“The level of training required is something that we would just not be able to administer at the school level. If you talk about the amount of training a police officer goes through, we could just not match that,” Doty said.

Franklin relies on armed resource officers and local police that visit their buildings to provide security, and those are the only people authorized to carry weapons in the buildings.

The idea of arming teachers wasn’t talked about as an option for Center Grove, which recently decided to add a third police officer. Center Grove police officers carry the same equipment that any other officers would, including a handgun, Assistant Superintendent Bill Long said.

“We have no intention of discussing that. We have our own police department, and we feel pretty confident in that,” Long said.

The additional officer already was in Center Grove’s plans, but officials decided to hire the person sooner after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Once the third officer is added, Center Grove will be able to station one officer full time at the high school, with the other two available to cover the middle and elementary schools.

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