Campbell County Working To Develop Armed Teacher Policy

Sep 11, 2019

Credit Campbell County School District

The Campbell County School Board has decided to move forward in its discussion of arming district staff.

The school board decided at Tuesday's meeting that they want to continue discussions on a potential policy but no final decisions have been made.

School board chair Anne Ochs suggested the ongoing conversations on a policy be focused on the following four options: tabling the issue, developing a district-wide policy, getting four additional resource officers for the district, and training school staff to be resource officers.

Ochs said that she wants the district to first look at getting more resource officers by working with the Gillette Police Department and Sheriff's Office to do so.

"I would like one more full-time [resource officer] at our junior highs and specifically three more to rotate between our in-town elementary schools. And that would mean walking around classrooms, being out on the playground with kids, being in the lunchroom. That means providing that support and building relationships with those kids," Ochs said.

Ochs said the four options give the district something to concrete work on in further discussions.

"I believe if we have those four options on the table when we go to public hearing on this policy that will give us real things rather than emotional things to look at," she said.

All board members agreed the district needs to further consider the option for rural Campbell County schools. The board is concerned about the long response times at rural district schools, like in Rozet and Recluse, if something were to happen.

"We've got to do something to protect our rural schools... I would hope that the community and the school board could look at the option of splitting it up and providing certain resources for city kids and opportunities for those out in the rurals," Ochs said.

How We Got Here

The topic has been on the district's mind since the legislature passed a law in 2017 that allows school boards to develop a policy on allowing staff to carry concealed guns in schools. That law outlines a baseline policy for districts to follow.

"We heard from the chief of police and the undersheriff; they addressed the board. So this has been a two-year conversation," said Campbell County Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer.

Eisenhauer said several district staff members went through the armed educator training in summer 2018 to better understand what it would be like for staff.

The district tabled discussions during the past legislative session while two bills were proposed on the topic.

In the spring, the district hosted three listening sessions on the topic, then released a survey to its staff and the community.

More than half of staff responded to the survey, and 58.2 percent said they supported a policy that would allow teachers to carry firearms. Twenty-one percent said they are against it. The rest said they need more information.

The district released the same survey to the community. More than 1,000 people responded to the survey, and about 75 percent said they are in support of a policy that would allow teachers to carry concealed firearms. Eighteen percent said they are against it, and nearly six percent said they need more information to make a decision.

At board meetings, parents and community members have appeared to comment on their feelings on the policy.

Next Steps

Board Chair Anne Ochs said everyone wants to protect students but the differences are present on how to protect them.

"We know we need to support our staff and our kids, and how does our community feel about that?" she said.

Ochs said the administration will need at least two months to develop a policy, but the board hasn't made a decision on whether it wants to pass one or not. She added any proposed policy will include community input and public meetings before final consideration.

Ochs said by the time the board would go into public hearings on a policy, the administration will have hopefully worked out lingering questions on hiring more school resource officers.

Campbell County would be the fifth Wyoming school district to approve a policy to arm some teachers.