In the months following the horrific massacre in Uvalde, TX where 19 children and two adults were murdered, interest in the policy of armed school staff on K-12 campuses has been on the upswing, big time. And as there are more conversations about having well-trained and armed teachers, janitors, and coaches on campus to protect the lives of our children and grandchildren, there are also more conversations that involve myths and plain-old inaccuracies.
As noted below, support for armed school staff programs is on the rise, both among law enforcement and the general public. Interest from Colorado school districts since Uvalde has been 10 times the typical interest following any other school shooting. As the Executive Director of FASTER Colorado, I have spoken with approximately 20 new school districts that are exploring the policy of armed staff. And calls from parents asking about how to persuade their districts to consider such policies has seen a similar increase.
Regardless of the increased support, myths surrounding armed school staff are still alive and well.
Myth 1: Law enforcement doesn’t support armed school personnel.
Quite the contrary. According to a July, 2022 poll by Police 1, a full 61% of respondents believe that schools are safer if teachers are armed. All of FASTER Colorado’s instructors are active-duty law enforcement and emergency responders. They exemplify those in law enforcement who support the policies. They all know that they will never be there in time to save the maximum number of lives. They dedicate themselves off-duty to training these civilians.
And outside of law enforcement, the tide is also turning. In a very recent poll, more Americans approve of the policy than disapprove by a 49% to 37% margin. And among poll respondents with children, that approval number is now 57%.
Myth 2: Armed school personnel are only needed in rural areas.
Let’s look at Colorado’s most notorious school shootings. STEM School is in Highlands Ranch. Arapahoe High School is in Centennial. Columbine is in Littleton. Hardly rural settings. Setting aside Columbine, as law enforcement tactics have changed in the decades since then, both STEM and Arapahoe had very quick law enforcement response. And in each of those shootings, one precious child lost their life. In the case of Arapahoe, that was Claire Davis. In STEM, it was Kendrick Castillo. To the Davis and Castillo families, it doesn’t matter that there was only one life lost in each of those events. Because they lost their child.
Denver Police Department is reporting response times of up to 30 minutes. Last year, Colorado Springs PD reported response times of more than 9 minutes. To be sure, rural areas might be in the range of 30–45-minute response times due to deputy availability. But in the case of school shootings, every minute counts.
Myth 3: Teachers don’t have the right mindset to be armed on campus.
This is the one that is not just inaccurate, but is insulting to every armed citizen, whether they work on a school campus or not.
In fact, an unaffiliated candidate for Sheriff here in Colorado said that he disagrees with arming teachers as it would place a burden on them that he believes they are untrained to meet. He said, “This is not a game for people who do it part time who should be teaching kids.”
And that’s the insulting part.
Is he concerned that being well-trained and armed on campus is more of a burden than a school employee putting their body between bullets and children? Coach Aaron Feis is unavailable for comment.
And having met hundreds of these armed school staffers over the past 6 years, I can assure the candidate that none of them think it’s a game. Armed school personnel who we work with at FASTER Colorado train far more with their firearm than the average member of law enforcement in a given year, and take their role very seriously. I can guarantee he has never met one of these heroes.
Laura Carno is executive director of FASTER Colorado.
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