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Oklahoma legislature considers measure allowing teachers to be armed

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Kimberly James | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Security guards and school police officers may not be the only individuals armed in schools if a proposed bill gets through the Oklahoma Senate. If passed, House Bill 2588 would let local school boards decide if they wanted their school staff to be armed.

The bill has already passed in the Oklahoma House.

"My experience in the past is that this legislation is not being requested by teachers, board of education or school administration," Dr. David Pennington of United Suburban Schools Association, told The Center Square. "That does not mean that there is not an individual teacher, board member or administrator who is not supportive of this idea, but they are the outlier."

While on the House floor, the bill was amended to require those armed to hold licenses and participate in hours of training. Consideration will also be given to how far away schools are from law enforcement.

"We recognize that one size does not fit all," Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, told The Center Square. "Schools in large metro areas have more options when it comes to hiring security personnel, and response times from local law enforcement can be quicker. Meanwhile, rural school staffs may feel isolated and need a different option. We trust local school boards to use good judgment."

Not every Oklahoma school board is comfortable with allowing teachers to be armed. The bill would not require the state to provide training for individual teachers. Any costs would be covered by the individual. The school district could pay for the training, but wouldn’t be required to.

"First and foremost, our teachers want their students to be safe at all times and they’ll do anything to protect them," Priest said. "But they were hired to teach English and math and science. Only trained security and law enforcement professionals who are CLEET certified, and have had training in active shooter situations, should be armed in our schools. This bill greatly lowers the standards of existing law."

Some teachers feel the Legislature should instead be focused on staffing and funding schools appropriately, responding to issues that directly need to be addressed, not making external attempts at a show of increased school safety.

"My personal opinion is that this law does not increase school safety," Pennington said. "Over the last 20 years, we have taken many steps to allow individuals greater access to firearms in public spaces. What we haven’t done as a state or a nation is invest in programs to address the mental health needs of our students or our communities."