More Oklahoma School Districts Allowing Armed Teachers In Response To Shootings
Oklahoma City, OK - One year after a gunman took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the number of Oklahoma school districts now allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom appears to have increased significantly.
The Valentine's Day tragedy unleashed a new wave of gun control activism across the country, but in many statehouses, including Oklahoma's, it sparked renewed calls for school leaders to better protect students by arming teachers or other school staff.
While there was new legislation introduced, lawmakers, in the end, decided that a bill into law in 2015 was sufficient.
Under that law, local school boards could adopt a policy allowing designated teachers or staff to carry a gun on school grounds, as long as the person had completed specified firearms training.
"Safety and security of students has always been a primary focus of schools," said Dr. Joe Siano, Associate Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
But Dr. Siano, who was superintendent of Norman Public Schools for more than 15 years, says that doesn't mean every school district is going to feel it needs to arm teachers.
"We have 500-and-something districts in the state," Siano explained, "everybody's a little different - those are decisions they have to make."
In 2016, News 9 emailed all 531 superintendents across the state, asking if their district had implemented the new policy, had not implemented it, or was actively considering implementing it. Of the 328 district leaders who responded, just 21 -- six percent -- said their districts had decided to go ahead and allow teachers or staff to carry on campus.
This week, two and half years later, we emailed the same group again and asked the same question. As of Thursday afternoon,175 superintendents had responded and 22 said their boards had adopted the firearm policy. That's 13 percent, a two-fold increase.
Siano says the increase could, in part, be a reaction to last year's Florida shooting, he says school administrators try not to simply react to tragedies.
"I believe they're diligent without these instances -- this is a priority, this is part of what we do as public schools every day," Siano stated. "Safety and security has to be a priority and it is in all of our schools."
Many superintendents in districts that have not elected to arm their teachers made clear that they already have armed school resource officers.