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Calif. school district votes to allow teachers to carry guns on campus

Kingsburg police chief on teachers carrying guns: ‘I’m all for that’

The Kingsburg Joint Union High School board on Monday, April 11, 2016 unanimously approved a new policy that allows up to five district employees – designated by the superintendent – to carry a concealed firearm on school grounds. Kingsburg police
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The Kingsburg Joint Union High School board on Monday, April 11, 2016 unanimously approved a new policy that allows up to five district employees – designated by the superintendent – to carry a concealed firearm on school grounds. Kingsburg police

Kingsburg Joint Union High School District will now allow teachers to carry guns on campus.

The school board on Monday unanimously approved a new policy that allows up to five district employees – designated by the superintendent – to carry a concealed firearm on school grounds.

Chosen employees will have to complete training approved by Superintendent Randy Morris, and their discipline record, evaluations and school conduct also will be considered.

“I am a proponent of the Second Amendment, and I’m also the biggest proponent of protecting the kids,” Morris said.

While there was little outcry at Monday’s school board meeting, critics say the measure is extreme, pointing to an otherwise lax school campus. At Kingsburg High, which enrolls about 1,200 students, there is no surrounding fence, no police officer on campus and students are allowed to leave for lunch each day.

Mary Lou Swenning, who has grandchildren in the district, compared the policy to something from the “Wild West” and said it will create an unnecessary burden for teachers.

You have a split second to decide if you should kill this person or not. I wouldn’t want that responsibility, and I wouldn’t want it for our teachers.

Kingsburg resident Mary Lou Swenning

“Now we’re going to add something else for teachers to think about? Shooting people, really?” she said. “That’s a difficult thing for a police officer to do who’s been trained to do this, and you have a split second to decide if you should kill this person or not. I wouldn’t want that responsibility, and I wouldn’t want it for our teachers.”

Kingsburg parent Tamara Norris said she is concerned how the policy will affect the student body, and that her daughter feels uneasy about not knowing which teachers will have weapons on campus.

“I’m wondering how the board might interact with the kids in regards to the level of anxiety that will potentially occur for some of them. I understand why you would not publicly announce who is carrying, but (my daughter) is wondering, ‘Who can I trust?’ ” Norris said. “It makes her very nervous. I can’t imagine she’s the only one.”

Kingsburg High student Andrew Vorhees said most of the community is in support of the policy, but it came as a surprise.

“I think most were shocked to hear, but a majority seem to be for it. My philosophy is I’d rather have a gun and not use it than not have a gun and need to use it,” Vorhees said. “I think it’ll be a good thing, but obviously, as cliché as it sounds, with great power comes great responsibility.”

Morris, the superintendent, said a common misconception has been that the policy was done in reaction to some sort of threat, but the board is being proactive.

My opinion? If a staff member wants to put themselves at risk like that, I’m all for it.

Kingsburg police Chief Neil Dadian

“This was about identifying that (a shooting) is a possibility, and since it is, we should give ourselves this option,” he said. “A lot of folks have said, ‘What’s going on? It’s a pretty easy-going place – no fences, no gates.’ But it’s not in response to anything, and that’s hard for people to understand.”

Kingsburg police Chief Neil Dadian helped the district create the gun policy, and referred to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“Imagine if one of those teachers was also armed. They could have stopped that.  The loss of life would’ve been much less,” Dadian said Monday. “My opinion? If a staff member wants to put themselves at risk like that, I’m all for it. I think what they’re doing is everything they possibly can to protect their students, and God bless them for that.”

State law introduced last year prohibits concealed-weapon permit owners from bringing guns on school campuses unless they have permission from the superintendent.

The state Department of Education does not track which schools have since chosen to allow guns, but Morris pointed to Folsom Cordova Unified, east of Sacramento, as an example. That district has allowed select employees to have guns on campus for several years, but weapons are not allowed in the classroom and are stored in vaults at schools.

At Kingsburg High, employees will carry firearms in a holster worn inside the pants, around the chest, on the front hip, at the ankle or behind the back.

The policy is effective immediately.

This story was originally published on FresnoBee.com.

Mackenzie Mays: 559-441-6412, @MackenzieMays

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