Educators, law enforcement weigh in on arming teachers

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 28, 2013 at 7:29 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 28 at 10:04 PM

AUSTIN -- Inside a packed Texas Senate Chamber, school administrators and law enforcement officials from across the state testified regarding the potential issues that could arise from arming and training teachers in response to school shootings.    
 
One of the concerns raised by lawmakers was whether an armed teacher could be accidentally shot by responding law enforcement during an active shooter situation.
 
"If there is something where teachers are going to be carrying concealed weapons or have weapons on campus, dealing with how to identify them to law enforcement and making sure they don't get shot as part of the exchange, and making sure that they don't shoot the law enforcement officers too is a concern," said Dr. John "Pete" Blair, director of research for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) in San Marcos.
 
"I've been involved in friendly fire investigations with officers," Dallas ISD Police Chief Craig Miller told KVUE. "I certainly don't want to see a teacher who's faced with trying to protect the safety of her children be faced with trying to make a decision that a law enforcement officer with a vast amount of experience couldn't have."
 
Miller, who came to Dallas ISD after working for the Dallas Police Department, said each time an officer is involved in a shooting, the issues of judgment and liability take center stage. It's a situation Miller said is difficult enough for a large city police department to handle.
 
"In each and every one of those situations where an officer elected to be put into a position to use deadly force, they were called into question and second guessed," said Miller. "And these are the most highly trained elite forces who train full time and that's their job. I do not believe a teacher equipped with a couple hours of training should be put in a situation where they have to make a difference in a life or death decision." 
 
After the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Texas lawmakers have also introduced bills to increase professional security at schools. The Texas School District Security Act proposed by State Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) and John Whitmire (D-Houston) would allow school districts to propose a separate tax dedicated to funding security programs. 
 
"It may be technology, it may be cameras, it may be additional personnel," Whitmire said at a media conference outlining the bill's provisions last week. "That's the benefit of this proposal, it's going  to let local communities choose for themselves what works." 
 
Peggy Venable with fiscally conservative Americans For Prosperity of Texas calls the bill "well-intentioned," but argued another tax isn't the solution. 
 
"Even one child harmed at school is one too many," Venable told KVUE Monday. "But we believe that there is enough money in the system and enough taxing authority to handle school safety."
 
Miller said his department is concentrating on electronic door security, "hardening" access points particularly regarding portable units, and increasing electronic surveillance.
 
Miller suggests school security is an issue districts can address more effectively than state legislators. 
 
"Let's don't be knee-jerk," said Miller. "Let's take a step back and let's do what's right for the kids, and let's be smart about what we're doing."

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