Feelings mixed over conceal carry policy

Some district residents say they’re concerned about a new Frontier Local Schools policy that will bring guns into the schools but others say they feel the buildings will be safer.

The Frontier Local Board of Education put a policy in place Dec. 20 for approved staff members to carry concealed weapons. The superintendent will determine who can carry guns and the names won’t be disclosed.

“There are a lot of kids in those schools and a lot of trust that will have to go through those teachers,” said Rachel Eddy, 43, of Newport. “There’s always that chance that something could go terribly wrong with this.”

Her husband Steve Eddy, 56, agreed with her.

“The parents should know which teachers are carrying, none of this confidential stuff,” he said.

The Eddys have grandchildren attending school in the district.

“I don’t know what has happened to bring up the concern for concealed carry in the schools,” said Rachel. “It isn’t necessary and I’m worried about it. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.”

A growing number of school districts have been putting similar plans in place in recent years, including in other communities in Ohio, Utah and Oklahoma. Some studies have shown that having an armed presence in school can make a difference in school shootings, while others question whether the risks of arming educators may be too high.

Along with concerns about misfires, lost or stolen guns, there is opposition to civilians making split-second life-or-death decisions that even trained law enforcement officers struggle with.

According to the Violence Policy Center, trained law enforcement officers have on average only a 20 percent hit rate when they fire their weapons. In some schools shootings, such as the one at Columbine High School, engagement from an armed school resource officer and county deputy did not stop the attack on the school.

But many Frontier students and residents say they think the security of concealed carry outweighs any risks.

Levi Cochran, 21, of Whipple, is a graduate of Frontier High School’s 2014 class.

“I went through all the training practice we had if an active shooter came to our school,” he said. “I mean it’s a good thing especially in today’s world where school shootings are happening more often.”

Current Frontier High School sophomores Abby Eddy, of Newport, and LaRae Henthorn, of Dart, shared their concern about law enforcement not being able to reach their school quickly enough to help in an emergency.

“That’s what the teachers told us, it would take the police 40 minutes to get to our school,” said Henthorn.

Eddy said she will feel safer having someone there.

“They’ll be able to stop what’s happening well before it gets worse,” she said. “It’ll help deter people from wanting to shoot up the school.”

Major Troy Hawkins of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said that in an emergency it likely wouldn’t take 40 minutes for help to arrive.

“Is it possible it could? Yes. But in the situation of an emergency we will try to get there as soon as possible,” he said.

Chief Deputy Mark Warden of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said he is in favor of the concealed carry approval.

“It is beneficial for the district to have those teachers in the schools armed in case of an active shooter situation,” he said. “In active shooter training, we tell the educators to defend themselves in whatever way they can. Any deputy’s goal is to get there as quickly as possible since historically, active shooter situations last between five and 15 minutes. Anything out of 15 minutes is crucial.”

Jennifer Ramsey, of Newport, who has two daughters attending school in the district, said she fully supports the new plan.

“It’s sad the world we live in where this is necessary but we absolutely have to protect our children,” she said. “I have faith in our staff and am not worried about it at all what could happen.”

Ramsey said she has attended board meetings for more information on the policy.

“During the drills they do tell the students they have to wait 40 minutes for help to arrive and that’s terrifying, especially for the younger students,” she said. “I am all for this.”

Scott Ward, 53, of Newport, has children at both Newport Elementary School and Frontier Middle School.

“There are no quick responders anywhere we are,” he said. “The staff will be properly trained and this will make the school a safer place. You just don’t know what could happen.”

About the new approval

– The Frontier Local Board of Education approved written authorization for teachers, staff and administration to carry concealed weapons.

– This was approved during the regular board meeting on Dec. 20.

– The policy will go into effect immediately and will apply to employees approved by the district’s administration.

– In addition to allowing staff members to carry guns, Frontier will provide them with a three-day training session this summer.

– Staff members must also undergo tactical training and be re-certified every year prior to being authorized to carry weapons in a school safety zone within the district.

Source:  Frontier Superintendent Brian Rentsch.