School officials opposed to arming teachers, say school resource officers are a better solution
The introduction of House Bill 2412, which would legalize armed teachers in Arizona schools, is not getting much support from local school administrators.
Education officials in the quad-city area say school safety, especially in the event of a school shooting, is better left in the hands of law enforcement.
Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Dave Smucker said trained professionals such as a school resource officer (SRO) would be a better alternative to arming teachers.
"When we think about school safety, I believe we should start with funding for school resource officers in our school buildings. Trained professionals would be a very positive step in the right direction," Smucker said.
Granite Mountain Middle School Principal Rachel Saunders concurred that arming teachers is not the best option to keep students safe.
"I believe that the state of Arizona needs to provide additional resources and funding in order for us to maintain safe campuses: video surveillance, fences, window covers, special door locks, et cetera," Saunders said. "With the increase in public violence, we need to invest the money in our schools to keep our children safe. Is our priority building more roads or keeping our children safe?"
Chino Valley School Superintendent Duane Howard said he believes teachers should focus on education on not on gun training.
"It's not our job function. When policemen stop a car, they are making about 20 tactical decisions when they walk up to that vehicle. Anytime a policeman has to go into a dangerous situation, they are making tactical decisions. Teachers are not trained in, nor should they be trained in, tactical decisions in our classroom and around our students," Howard said.
He also questioned whether a teacher should be put in a position where they might have to shoot someone.
"In my opinion, it's just not in our personalities," he said. "We are in the business of instructing people. I don't see how we can just turn that switch and become an aggressor toward another human being. That is just not our calling in life."
Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Paul Stanton agreed that only trained professionals should handle weapons in schools.
"I know some in the state legislature are looking at adding school resource officers to districts. I would strongly support having SROs on our campuses. They're trained on working with kids and they develop relationships with children. Teachers are trained to be educators," Stanton said.
One school resource officer currently operates in Prescott, with another in Prescott Valley.
Prescott Police Department Lt. Ken Morley said law enforcement would enforce whatever laws are dictated by legislation.
"We certainly would like to have more SROs for all of our schools here, but we just don't have the financial ability, with the current budget, to be able to do that," Morley said. "We're short-staffed, to a certain degree. We certainly wish we had more (SROs) available."
Prescott Valley Police Department Sgt. Brandon Bonney said school resources officers provide a positive experience to schools where the officers are present.
"That's for a number of reasons other than just someone armed to protect the kids. (It's also) for education and the positive impact they can have on kids," Bonney said. "We're seeking funding to try to get more in the schools."
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