Another rural Oklahoma school district will allow its employees to carry firearms this fall in an effort to keep students and staff from harm, according to the Tulsa World. The district may be the latest in the growing number of schools adopting policies that permit licensed and trained teachers and administrators to be armed during school hours.
Hartshorne Public Schools’ board of education approved allowing staff to carry firearms in June, but the policy comes with strings attached. Staff have to become Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training certified in order to carry. And the ability to carry is at Superintendent Jason Lindley’s discretion, according to board minutes.
When staff members start carrying next school year, they’ll be among a few in Oklahoma. Okay Public Schools also allows its teachers to carry firearms.
Hartshorne’s decision comes amid a nationwide debate about how to keep students safe in the event of a mass shooting. Some have advocated arming teachers like Hartshorne is doing. Others have advocated for more gun control. For the small Pittsburg County district, it wasn’t an easy decision, Lindley said. It was something the district weighed for two years.
Lindley said mass shootings across the country were what prompted the district to institute the policy.
“We don’t think it’s something that could happen in Hartshorne, but we can’t rely on that,” Lindley said.
He said the rural location of the school district was a key factor in the decisions to allow firearms, noting that urban school districts have armed police departments of their own and large local law enforcement agencies nearby.
The lack of a heavy law enforcement presence leaves teachers, with a firearm, as the last line of defense, Lindley said.
The cost as well as the availability of qualified law enforcement personnel available as first responders in emergency situations is a critical consideration across the country, which leads otherwise reluctant officials to opt for armed teachers.