CHARLESTON, W.Va. — County school boards would have the option to approve teachers to serve as armed school protection officers in a bill passed Thursday evening by the House Education Committee.
Committee members discussed HB 2364 for more than 4 hours in two different sessions before approving the bill on a 16-7 vote.
Some of the discussion was emotional focusing on school shootings and whether teachers should be asked to carry a gun.
“Our stand is—let’s let teachers teach,” American Federation of Teachers-WV President Fred Albert told the committee. “Let’s let our (trained officers) take care of safety in the school.”
The bill says the school district could designate one or more teachers in elementary or secondary schools as protection officers. It would be voluntary. The person chosen would have to have a conceal carry permit and undergo training.
Supporters said the bill would create additional protection in schools that currently aren’t assigned school resource officers from local police agencies.
“We know that not every school has a resource officer, therefore we know that not every school is protected,” Delegate Doug Smith, R-Mercer, the bill’s sponsor said.
Delegate Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier, himself a teacher, said the bill is an option school boards can choose.
“It simply provides boards of educations the opportunity to mitigate risks that could happen,” Longanacre said.
But Delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, also a teacher, said his colleagues want the experts to handle the protection.
“I know many, many, many teachers and this is something that we overwhelmingly do not want. There might some that do but a very, very, very small few,” Thompson said.
The committee’s Republican majority defeated proposed amendments that would have required additional background checks and psychological exams for those who volunteer, would require school boards to obtain additional insurance and would require a countywide vote to put the protection plan in place.
The measure next heads to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.