After meeting with Florida school shooting survivors this week, President Donald Trump said he wants “highly trained” teachers to carry guns in an effort to deter the next mass casualty event.
When Aaron Sydow heard about the president’s position, he was encouraged.
After all, Sydow’s school district has been doing it for years.
Sydow is the superintendent of the Fairview R-XI School District in West Plains. Shortly after 20 first-graders were killed in 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, Fairview schools partnered with a local security company to start arming some teachers.
More than a dozen other Missouri schools have followed Fairview’s lead.
The American Federation of Teachers this week came out against arming teachers. And the three biggest school districts in the Springfield area told the News-Leader they have no plans to adopt the president’s suggestion.
The debate about whether teachers should be armed was thrust back into the national discussion after a gunman killed 17 people last week at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Sydow said when he started in education 20 years ago, he could not have imagined teachers walking the hallways with concealed handguns, but this is a different day and age.
“It’s sad that it’s come to this,” Sydow said.
Thousands gathered at Pine Trails Park on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 for a candlelight vigil in honor of the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.Nicole Raucheisen/Naples Daily News
The way the process works in Fairview, Sydow said, is that faculty members interested in carrying concealed handguns go through an initial 40-hour training session with Shield Solutions security company that includes a psychiatric evaluation.
Teachers who pass the initial training must also complete 24 hours of additional training every year to maintain their ability to carry guns at school, Sydow said.
For security purposes, Sydow declined to say how many teachers at his one-building K-8 school are armed, but he acknowledged there are “several.”
Sydow said one reason why the district felt it would be a good idea to arm teachers is because of the rural location of the school in Howell County.
“If there was an event out here at this particular school and if a sheriff’s deputy was sitting in his car at the sheriff’s office waiting for us to call, it would be a minimum of 8 minutes before arrival,” Sydow said.
In most school shootings, the event is over in a few minutes, Sydow said.
Greg Martin is the CEO of Shield Solutions, the company that trains Fairview’s teachers. Martin said his company also provides the same services to more than 20 other schools in Missouri.
Martin said teachers in his program receive extensive handgun training, and they are also trained on how to provide tactical medical care.
“This stuff is not going away,” Martin said. “It’s getting worse. Every day it’s something new.”
After the recent school shooting in Florida, assistant football coach Aaron Feis was called a hero for using his body to shield students from gunfire.
Martin said Thursday the situation might have been different if Feis had been armed.
“Why not give them the tools they need to stop something like this?” Martin asked.
Martin declined to say how much his training costs school districts.