Implementation Issues Present School Boards and Administrators with Significant Responsibility and Potential Liability
School safety expert advises against arming teachers and school staff
Arming persons at schools should be left to professional school public safety officials: School Resource Officers (SROs) and school police department officers
“The vast majority of teachers want to be armed with textbooks and computers, not guns,” said Kenneth S. Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, in response to the national discussion on arming teachers and school staff, and armed volunteers in schools.
Trump advises school districts against allowing teachers and school staff to be armed.
Trump says that while gun control and gun rights advocates typically seize on school proposals to arm teachers to further political agendas, his opposition to arming teachers and school staff focuses solely on implementation issues, not political statements and beliefs about rights to bear arms.
“School districts considering arming teachers and school staff with guns would take on significant responsibility and potential liabilities that I firmly believe are beyond the expertise, knowledge-base, experience, and professional capabilities of most school boards and administrators,” Trump said. He added that school board members, superintendents, principals, teachers, school safety experts, and public safety officials he has talked with around the nation consistently do not believe that educators and school support staff should be armed.
Trump said he personally supports the Second Amendment and concealed carry laws, but believes that proposals to arm teachers and other school employees crosses the line of self-protection and protection of one’s family into a different level of tasking educators and school support staff to provide public safety, law enforcement functions for hundreds or thousands of individuals in a school.
“Suggesting that by providing teachers, principals, custodians, or other school staff with 8, 16, 40, or even 60 hours of firearms training on firing, handling, and holstering a gun somehow makes a non-law enforcement officer suddenly qualified to provide public safety services devalues our highly trained police professionals and is a high-risk to the safety of students, teachers, and other school staff,” Trump said.
He said that educators enter a profession to teach and serve in a supportive, nurturing role with children. To ask them to abruptly kick into the mindset to kill one of those same students in a second’s notice is not realistic. Police officers train their entire career and enter each traffic stop and individual encounter with a preparedness and life-safety mindset that is different from the professional training and mindset of educators.
Trump, a 30-year veteran school safety expert who has trained and consulted with school and public safety officials from all 50 states and Canada, noted that school districts setting policy to allow teachers and school staff to be armed with guns would take on an enormous amount of responsibility and potential liability.
He says allowing teachers and school staff to be armed begs a number of questions:
- Does the school board have appropriate and adequate policies and procedures governing the carrying and use of firearms by teachers and school staff?
- What type of “use of force continuum” has the school district created for staff to use firearms? How does that stand up in comparison to such standards held for police officers and others who are armed and deployed in a public safety capacity?
- What types of firearms (types of guns, caliber of weapons, etc.) are staff allowed to carry and not allowed to carry? Will staff carry their own personal firearms or school district-issued firearms? If the school allows staff to carry their personal weapons for the purpose of protecting staff and students, what responsibilities do school boards and administrators thereby assume for making sure the firearms carried are functional? Does the school district have regular “inspections” of staff firearms to make sure they are functional and appropriate to policy, and if so, who on school staff is responsible for that function and what is their level of expertise and training to make such decisions?
- What type of firearms training does the school district provide on a regular, ongoing basis to those staff it authorizes to be armed with guns? Will the school district build and operate its own firearms range? Who on school staff is qualified to provide such training, operate a firearms range, etc.? Will firearms certification and recertification be added to the school district’s professional development training program each year?
- What type of weapons retention training has been provided to staff who are armed and what steps have been taken to reduce risks of a teacher or staff member being intentionally disarmed by a student or other person, or for having a firearm dislodged from a staff member’s control when the teacher breaks up a fight in a cafeteria or hallway?
- How is the district prepared to prevent and manage situations where teachers and/or staff members lose, misplace, or have stolen their firearms while on campus?
- How will the school district manage an accidental shooting that could occur?
- What is the impact of this type of board policy and practice on the school district’s insurance and potential legal liability posture? If self-insured, is the district able to handle potential lawsuit judgments against them for cases resulting from this practice? If insured by a private carrier, what is the insurance provider’s position and concerns, or will they even insure the district for such a practice?
- Most importantly, what other options have we considered as school leaders? For example, if the school district is concerned about first responder response time from the community to the school, has the school district considered employing a school resource officer (SRO) or its own trained, commissioned and certified school police officer who is a school district employee, such as what is allowed in Texas, Florida and other states?
…and many other considerations.
Trump recommends that superintendents and school boards get written opinions from their insurance carriers and school district attorneys on the risks and liability of arming non-law enforcement, school employees.
Trump has long supported school districts having school resource officers (SROs) who are city or county law enforcement officers assigned to work in schools. He also supports properly organized and operated school police departments, which are in-house school district police officers that are trained, commissioned, and certified professional peace officers in school districts where state law allows districts to have such departments.
Trump says that the arming of teachers and school staff goes is a significantly different issue that goes beyond simply the issue of an individual’s right in a number of states to be licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Unlike an individual being trained and licensed under a state law to carry a firearm for personal protection at their home or on the streets, school districts that permit teachers and school staff to carry firearms on campus are in essence deploying those school employees in a public safety capacity to protect the masses with the expectation and assumption that they can and will provide a firearms-related level of public safety protection services to students and other staff. By tasking those employees with those responsibilities, Trump notes, the school district is also accepting responsibility and potential liability for implementation of such policies.
“There is a huge difference between having trained, certified and commissioned law enforcement officers who are full-time, career public safety professionals that are armed and assigned the duty of protecting students and staff versus having teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other non-public safety professionals packing a gun in school and tasked with providing a public safety function for hundreds or thousands of children,” Trump said.