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Should guns be in schools? Local leaders worried about risks involved

NATCHEZ — A bill that passed the Mississippi House Wednesday would allow school boards to arm teachers with concealed weapons, but Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill said he doesn’t think guns in schools is the solution to protecting students.

House Bill 958 would let local school boards create policies authorizing employees, including cafeteria workers and janitors, to carry concealed weapons on campus. A previous version of the bill limited the number of employees with weapons at each school, but the bill that passed Wednesday provides no limit.

While he hasn’t discussed the matter officially with the NASD board of trustees, Hill said he personally stands against the bill and any other bill that would arm teachers or school employees.

“I don’t believe giving guns to teachers is necessarily the right thing to do or will help solve anything,” Hill said. “Then you’d need to look at training, certification and a whole bunch of other things to ensure that person can handle the responsibility.

“If the bill progresses, we’ll definitely have to start talking about it and figure out a solution.”

Hill said currently safety officers that are located at each NASD school are not armed, but they do monitor the school all day and during special events after school.

A more logical decision, Hill said, would be to allow those safety officers to carry weapons on campus instead of teachers or other employees.

“I would feel more comfortable with a trained officer having a gun than anyone else,” Hill said. “That could certainly be a possibility we would look into.”

Currently, Mississippi residents who receive a concealed carry permit and take an eight-hour course are allowed to carry a gun on college campuses.

Some who favor arming school employees point to the 1997 shooting at Pearl High School. There, a 16-year-old student, Luke Woodham, shot and killed two students and injured seven others after killing his mother in his home. Assistant Principal Joel Myrick went to his truck and retrieved a revolver, stopping Woodham from leaving the campus and holding him until police arrived.

Myrick, however, recently said he opposes arming school personnel and instead favors relying on trained law enforcement officers and others with extensive firearms training.

The bill was held for more possible debate before it goes to the Senate.

Across the river in Louisiana, several gun control bills are being discussed and prepped for the legislative session that begins April 8.

One bill being drafted would allow off-duty law enforcement officers to carry firearms on school campuses.

The current law only allows federal, state or local law enforcement who are on duty to do so.

Concordia Parish School District Superintendent Paul Nelson said he thinks it’s too early to tell what kind of gun control legislation might pass in Louisiana, if any.

But arming teachers or school employees is something Nelson said he’s against.

“As a former teacher and principal, I really don’t know if I would even want that responsibility on me,” Nelson said. “I wouldn’t want to be going up and down the halls carrying a pistol.

“I just don’t know how I feel about that.”

Nelson said there are too many unpredictable situations where the weapon could become more of a danger than a helpful tool.

“What if the teachers goes to break up a fight and one kid grabs the weapon?” Nelson said. “What kind of liability would be associated with that kind of situation, and is that something we really want in our schools?”

Nelson said a mix of school resource officers from the Vidalia Police Department, Ferriday Police Department and the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office currently provides security at CPSB schools.

“Those SROs move from school to school, from place to place ensuring our students are safe,” Nelson said. “I would much rather leave that kind of thing to trained police officers and sheriff’s deputies.”

 

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