Delegates pass bill allowing educators to carry concealed weapons in schools after 24 hours of training

The House of Delegates passed a bill that would allow educators to carry concealed firearms as designated school protection officers.

The bill passed 89-11 Wednesday after more than an hour of debate. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Supporters maintained educators could represent a first line of defense against an attack from the outside, especially in rural counties where school protection officers are hard to find or spread thin.

Bill Ridenour

“School shooters are terrorists. That’s all they are. They’re there to terrorize the people in the school,” said Delegate Bill Ridenour, R-Jefferson, a retired Marine Corps officer and retired defense intelligence officer.

He continued, “What we’re looking at here with teachers carrying and a school resource officer are layers of defense. The police are another layer of defense. If they make it through the police, if they get past the SRO, the last line of defense is that teacher who may have a weapon more than an eraser or a pencil they can throw or a chair.”

Critics pushed back that the policy would introduce guns into classrooms and that accidents can produce deadly results, even among well-meaning educators. They said the bill leaves too many questions unanswered, such as whether the training is truly adequate.

Kayla Young

“I’m worried that with such little training that these folks are not going to be adequately prepared to do this,” said Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha. “I can’t support it. If I don’t know where the guns are in my young children’s school, that scares me. That scares me a lot.”

House Bill 4299 would apply to teachers, administrators, support personnel in elementary or secondary schools who volunteer to be designated as school protection officers. They would be authorized to carry concealed firearms or a stun gun or Taser.

Any educator seeking the designation would need to provide proof of a valid conceal carry permit and a certificate demonstrating completion of a Security Protection Officer Training program. The training would need to include mitigation techniques, neutralization of potential threats and active shooters, de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention and more.

Anitra Hamilton

“So you’re telling me that one training is going to give them the wherewithal to take down an active shooter with an assault weapon. I just don’t see that happening,” said Delegate Anitra Hamilton, D-Monongalia.

Delegate Dave Foggin, R-Wood, said the policy would give teachers a chance against an armed intruder. Foggin has been a high school teacher in Parkersburg and talked about wanting to be sure students under his supervision could be protected.

Dave Foggin

“I’ve learned how to teach different kids, how to teach kids with all kinds of different abilities. Something I haven’t figured out yet and never will is how to teach a dead child,” Foggin said.

“Until you’re there, you’re standing there in front of those 25 kids every period, 30 kids every period — they look to you for leadership, look to you for protection.”

He said his worry would be to be defenseless: “I got nothing, can’t do it. Someone walks through that door with a gun — I could try. I trained mine to run, bust a window, get out, do whatever you can to get away. That’s all we got.”

Delegates adopted one amendment that would require local school authorities to accept the volunteer status of educators who meet the conceal carry and training requirements. An earlier version of the bill made that optional for local school system officials.

Dana Ferrell

Delegate Dana Ferrell, R-Kanawha, asked if that means some schools might wind up with multiple teachers carrying weapons because they have all met the requirements and school systems would be directed to accept them all.

“There’s already a school resource officer, there are two other teachers, a third one, a fourth one is going to continue after that?” Ferrell asked.

The answer was yes.

But delegates voted down another proposed amendment that would have provided a $25,000 bonus for each educator who volunteers for the school protection officer duty.

Shawn Fluharty

“This amendment arms job with something they actually want — money,” said Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, a sponsor of the amendment. “The bill is essentially forcing teachers to work a second job without any money, so they should at least be rewarded.”

House Judiciary Chairman Tom Fast, R-Fayette, responded that the money isn’t there for that.

Tom Fast

“This is a voluntary program on behalf of the teachers and others,” Fast said. “It is a bill not meant to be a financial burden upon the school board.”

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