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Arming teachers and administrators a growing possibility

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In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary many have argued for more armed security in schools, but in several states, including Indiana, that armed security could include teachers and administrators.

Indiana law gives local school boards the power to grant teachers or administrators the right to carry guns in school. So far, Fox59 News has not found any schools that have exercised that power, but it could happen soon.

In a rural school districts, where smaller budgets limit the number of armed security officers, school boards are beginning to examine how they whether arming teachers or staff could work.

In the Mooresville school district, the topic has not yet come up with the school board, but Tricia Ferguson, principal of Northwood Elementary, says she believes it should be talked about if the district isn’t able to add additional officers.

Ferguson says she spent time thinking about the principal at Sandy Hook, who didn’t have that option when confronting the shooter, Adam Lanza.

“As I’m sitting there looking at what happens, would I have preferred that principal been able to do something more than just run through the hallway? The parent side of me says, ‘Yeah, absolutely,’” Ferguson said. “The administrator side of me says that’s a huge responsibility.”

Ferguson says she`s only open to the idea of being armed if there is extensive training and if hiring more security officers isn’t a possibility.

In bigger districts like IPS, Fox59 News found that officer staffing is much higher, and the number of teachers or administrators willing to carry a gun appears to be lower.

“I would not be comfortable at all carrying a gun,” said Nancy Lafferty, a theater teacher at Broad Ripple Magnet High School. “I would guess each person to his or her own opinion, but I think as educators that’s not really our role. That’s not our job.”

But that could be changing, according to Guy Relford, who owns Tactical Firearms Training. Relford has publicly offered his services, for free, to any teacher or administrator with a gun permit and approval from their district to be armed in a school.

How many school employees have contacted him?

“Dozens. I’d say approaching 100,” Relford said.

Though he hasn’t heard of any school boards officially signing off on arming teachers yet, he says he is confident it could happen soon.

“Without any question,” Relford said. “In fact, I know of two (school districts) where it’s going to be on the agenda within the next month.”

It’s already being discussed at Central Noble schools in Northeast Indiana. If it`s approved and other districts follow, then there`s the issue of training.

“A lot of the training we’re talking about would mirror exactly what a normal police officer would go through, you know yearly qualifications, weapons safety and on-going training,” said Noble County Sheriff Douglas Harp, who is willing to arm teachers who sign up with their district.

In Indianapolis, Relford says his tactical training would pair extensive training on the range and in the classroom. Relford says he’d also push for teachers to have secure, quick-access gun safes in their classrooms, so that they wouldn’t have to carry guns on their hips.

Relford believes a successful program would be similar to pilots who underwent training to have a gun in the cockpit following 9/11.

“What I really like about that program is if you’re a terrorist, you have to think about if there may be a .45 semi-automatic on the other side of that cockpit door,” Relford said. “I’d like the next Adam Lanza to consider that there may be a loaded firearm on the other side of that classroom door.”

But even if school districts support that theory, the state doesn’t provide the same structure or training requirements that the FAA did for pilots.

“I don’t like the idea of a government sort of interposing its judgment in most areas, but in this one… to set some statewide standards may ultimately be a good idea,” Relford said. “We have statewide standards for instance on what you need to do, training-wise, to be a law enforcement officer. I don’t see a significant difference there. In fact, with as sensitive an environment as a school is, I think it makes some sense.”

For now it`s still up to school districts and school boards whether to move forward. Ferguson says she still believes professional officers are the best solution, but if additional funding doesn’t make it possible, she says she’s willing to take on that responsibility.

“I would,” Ferguson said. “You know, it’s a very personal decision though. If someone is in this business and they’re not comfortable with that, I don’t think they should, or should be required to. The flip side is that if you want to get the training and you know what you’re doing, that’s a conversation maybe we should have.”

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