Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, speaking to a group at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday, essentially sided with President Trump when she said arming some school employees should be considered. Florida Gov. Rick Scott disagrees – and he’s not alone among the nation’s governors.
Washington State’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee made news last week when he confronted President Trump at the White House over his desire to let teachers and other school personnel carry guns.
“I have listened to the people who would be affected by that,” Inslee told Trump during a question and answer session. “I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don’t want to do that at any percentage.”
Gov. Inslee apparently did not listen to John Cerna, superintendent of the Toppenish, Washington School District. Cerna carries his own gun to work and allows 18 other administrators to also carry a concealed handgun in their schools.
“This isn’t about President Trump or our governor,” said Cerna, “this is about the kids in Toppenish. This is about the safety of my people.”
Cerna said after the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, he became open to any and all methods aimed at hardening his schools. Among the changes since then, school doors are locked so visitors have to be buzzed in. There’s also one private armed security guard and at least one armed administrator in every building. The volunteer administrators are put through 40 hours of training and are retrained every two years.
The state school superintendent and gun control groups say the risks outweigh the potential benefits.
“A school administrator should be focused on better running their schools,” said Jaron Lindbaum of Washington Ceasefire. “Teachers should be focused on their curriculum and better teaching their students. Let’s leave the public safety aspect to the trained public safety officers.”
Nearly one-third of the nation’s public schools already have armed school resource officers. There was one on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the time of the deadly rampage.
But when it comes to arming educators to add deterrent and cut response time, most parents in Toppenish are in full support.
“It protects the kids,” said parent Lily Sampson-Ohms. And speaking about the school’s armed administrators, “they’re the first line of defense.”
Toppenish is not the only school district in Washington that allows armed employees. The Kiona-Benton School District has a similar policy. Each is fielding a lot of calls from educators around the country who are also worried about their schools being soft targets.