Arming teachers: Cenla officials discuss possibilities of president's latest proposal

CENTRAL, La. (KALB) - Just days after a gunman killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, conversations about gun control and what safety measures schools should take to prevent more tragedies ignited yet again.

Source: KALB

Here at home, we had a few scares of our own. Schools in the area received threats and students were caught with pellet guns.

One suggestion as to how to fight back, coming directly from the president.

At a governors meeting last week, President Donald Trump said he wants to arm teachers.

"Arming a small portion that are gun adept and truly know how to handle them because I do feel governor that it is very important," said President Trump while addressing the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee. "Because gun free zones, it's like an invitation for these very sick people to go there."

He also tweeted that he wants to allow 20 percent of teachers with specialized training to carry a concealed weapon in school, perhaps providing a bonus to those who do.

The idea is receiving mixed reaction. A poll on our web page asked what viewers thought, with 70 percent in favor of the idea.

"I think it is a possibility," said Alexandria resident Tom Riser. "I think a emphatic yes or no without looking at the possibilities, or without investigating or studying it would be hasty."

Some others around town were not so sure.

"I am a concealed carry," said Alexandria resident Christal Workman. "I feel safer having one. I have been trained, I know how to use it. But, I also feel like in the school, the teachers, their focus should be on educating our children."

Many thinking lawmakers should leave it to the professionals.

"If we need additional security in the school we need to add additional law enforcement in the school," said Alexandria resident Jack Henton.

However, it's not a new idea. A CNN article reports that schools in Arkansas, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Idaho allow teachers and staff to carry in some form.

Still school officials in Central Louisiana are unsure of the proposal.

"You couldn't just say look we have a box of guns here, every teacher get one and protect the schools," said Vernon Parish Superintendent James Williams.

Williams said if he were to sign off on arming his teachers the process would have to be extremely selective.

"If somebody can guarantee me or show me a fool proof plan where arming teachers would stop all this, then I'd be all for that," Williams said. "But again, that is talk."

Grant Parish Superintendent Sheila Jackson is guarded about arming teachers, but said it's an option President Trump has put on the table.

"But, for this to come to full fruition I think there is a lot that needs to be considered and very, very specific guidelines and qualifications," Jackson said.

She said guns aside, school boards need to prepare for the unknown.

"In Sandy Hook, they had all the bells and whistles, and that individual shot their way into the school," Jackson said. "What we have to have is a well thought out plan that in the event if something happens we know how to react to have the least amount of damage possible."

Currently, Grant Parish has school resource officers at most schools. Vernon and Rapides have an SRO stationed at every school.

Rapides Parish Sheriff William Earl Hilton said people aren't thinking about the repercussions of this idea.

"If the teacher is armed there is going to be some children that are intimidated by that," Sheriff Hilton said. "There are going to be some kids sitting around figuring out how to get their hands on the teachers gun."

The Rapides Federation of Teachers said many teachers here in Rapides are also against it.

"We have spoken with teachers overwhelmingly and they are not in favor of having guns in the schools," said Rapides Federation President Leona Venson.

In the coming weeks Rapides Parish Superintendent Nason Authement said they will continue to partner with RPSO.

"The safety and security of our students as well as all of our school personnel is absolutely paramount," Authement said.

They will take a look at each school's current security measures.

"I've also recommended to the board that we engage the services of a safety and security specialist who can come in and advise, guide and direct us in ensuring our emergency operation plans are solid," Authement said.

Williams said they will conduct similar walk throughs in Vernon Parish.

Arming teachers is a delicate subject that he said would need a lot more work and conversation.

"Having a gun at your house and protecting your home, and your family is one thing," Williams said. "But, when you have a gun and are trying to protect everybody's children in a social setting like a school, then it is a whole different thing."

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