Following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December that left 20 children and six staff members dead, schools across the country have begun to reassess school safety and some officials are calling for drastic measures such as arming teachers.
In at least 19 states, including Louisiana, legislation is already in place that allows teachers to carry weapons on school grounds with written permission from school administrators.
According to a Lake Charles American-Press report, the National Rifle Association, in cooperation with a Lake Charles gun range, is offering free gun training to teachers. However, representatives on the St. Charles Parish School Board have said they are doubtful about arming teachers.
District 2 board member Melinda Bernard, who was formerly the principal at St. Rose Elementary, said she’s not sure putting guns in the hands of teachers is the right move.
"There are pros and cons. If there were a crazed person maybe it would be a good thing to have someone armed," Bernard said. "But who is it going to be of our teachers? Are we going to put that added responsibility on them?"
Bernard said educators are trained to provide learning opportunities for children, not to serve as armed guards.
"Honestly, as a former teacher and principal myself I don’t think arming teachers is in the best interest of our children," she said. "I think that is a different mindset. I think we ought to leave the police work to the policeman."
However, Bernard said she likely would have acted in the same manner as Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung who, although unarmed, attempted to stop the shooter and was shot dead.
"I probably would have done the same thing as that principal did and gone after that man myself," Bernard said. "That is the principal’s job. Should it be a principal’s job to get the gun training? I think that there may be something to that perspective."
District 7 board member Arthur Aucoin said he believes local schools already have enough protection in place provided by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
All of the upper level schools have police resource officers on school grounds during the school day and the primary schools commonly have D.A.R.E. officers on school grounds.
In addition, Aucoin said sheriff’s deputies are often in the areas of schools that do not have full-time officers assigned to them.
"I live nearby in Mimosa Park, near Lakewood, and they are there daily and you would not know how many times I passed daily and there is a deputy sitting in the parking lot doing his paperwork," Aucoin said. "That deputy just sitting in the parking lot means a lot."
In a presentation to the School Board earlier this week, Kade Rogers, coordinator of safety, security and emergency preparedness, said school employees are already well-versed on how to deal with situations such as an armed intruder in the schools.
"Several of our emergency measures were in place before this tragic event happened," Rogers said. "Safety is the responsibility of every single person involved throughout our school district."
Rogers said school employees already have a well-defined system in place to lock their students in their rooms should such an occurrence happen and that the school recently went through a training exercise that mimicked the circumstances of a school shooting.
In addition, John Rome, executive director of physical plant services, said the school is looking into adding more closed circuit cameras in the schools and school buses, as well as adding a locking mechanism to school entrances.
Superintendent Rodney Lafon and Sheriff Greg Champagne are meeting with a legislative committee this week to determine what further steps may be taken on a statewide level to prevent school shootings.
Other states such as Alabama and Kentucky are also looking at legislation that would allow teachers to carry weapons in schools. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has discussed broadening the proliferation of teachers with guns although his state is one that already allows teachers to carry weapons with the permission of principals.