Cody is now the second school district in Wyoming to put guns in the hands of teachers and staff. Unlike Uinta County School District #1, which passed the policy in two months, Park County School District #6 took well over eight months. But what now?
For Jessica Case, a mother of two children in the district, the night of the third and final vote was anticlimactic.
“The truth is I don't think any of us were surprised that it passed,” said Case.
The policy was first introduced to the school board in the fall by one board member. Case said it seemed streamlined.
“I was kind of shocked the first time I went to the meeting,” said Case. “Because I thought, ‘where's the discussion where we go big and look at all the options and see if this is a good or bad idea.’ It was immediately a policy that people were debating.”
That other option or compromise Case and others had hoped for was more school resource officers (SROs). These are police officers patrolling schools. Kelly Simone, the board chair, said that arming teachers wasn’t her first choice either but when the board looked at the possibility of more SROs…it’s expensive. For instance, one SRO costs between $50,000 to $75,000 per year.
“Most people don’t know that the district and Cody cost share the SRO and so for it to be financially sustainable it would have to be sustainable for both governmental entities,” said Simone.
And at a time of education budget cuts that would be difficult to pay for. Simone said the board also updated the safety of the school buildings themselves. This includes reinforced windows and doors, one point of entry and video surveillance. Lucille Sax, a senior at Cody High School, said updating the school's infrastructure is a better path to follow.
“Even though we live in our society where we are worried about our safety in school you shouldn’t add fire to that by adding a firearm to that,” said Sax.
But Cody Edwards, a fellow senior, doesn’t agree. He’s convinced that wouldn’t work. He said the high school has performed active shooter drills that prove they need someone on the premises with a gun.
“I myself would’ve died if that was a real situation,” said Edwards. “And we should be trying to get someone who has a gun, which is eventually what we’re going to do anyway if we’re calling the police or a SRO.”
Now that the board has passed the policy, the next steps are to pick a vendor for a trainer and a psychological exam provider. Once this is completed, teachers can start applying to carry firearms. The board foresees teachers carrying by the beginning of the next school year. This means the teacher completed a psychological evaluation, a drug and alcohol test and at least 18 hours of training. Flint Flesher, a father of four kids in the district and the owner of Alpine Firearms Training, said in Cody you’re constantly surrounded by people carrying guns in public.
“I feel more comfortable being around these teachers with guns then I do a lot of other people just because they've gone through it [training] they know what they’re supposed to be doing,” said Fletcher.
The other fact is that the teachers who will be allowed to carry must have already had a concealed carry permit for two years so they should already be experienced with a gun.
In contrast, as Cody officially puts away its gun free zone signs, Powell, the school district next door, has decided to keep theirs after not moving forward with their own gun policy. For Jennifer Case, who we met in the beginning, this could be a game changer her seventh grader.
“Potentially he would go to high school in Powell if this continues to be a policy,” she said.
But for now, she’s optimistic that the controversial topic of arming teachers has opened conversation in the community and there could be potential for changes in the future.