Indiana schools chief leery of armed school staffers

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The state's superintendent of schools says a proposal aimed at arming educators goes too far.

The bill approved this week would require some school workers to carry guns. If the bill becomes law, it would be the first of its kind in the country.

Superintendent Glenda Ritz said Wednesday she believed such decisions on school security should be made by local school districts without mandates from the Legislature.

Many of the larger school systems in Indiana - like Indianapolis and Brownsburg - already have a trained police presence, but what if the person assigned to protect a school was not a law enforcement professional but an armed teacher?

"I would like to think that with training, the means for defending ourselves, we can go from innocent victims to bad guy chooses wrong school to break into," said Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour).

Lucas says the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., makes his point. From the time the 911 call was made and police arrived, 26 people were dead.

For some parents, it's simple as arithmetic. The only lead they want to see in a classroom is on the end of a pencil.

"I don't think there should be guns on the premises. If there is a cop in the school, that is alright, because they know how to do it, but not anybody else. What if the gun got taken away? It happens. It is not a good idea. Guns kill people," said Brownsburg parent Patricia Dowling.

Dowling has four kids in the Brownsburg school system.

"What do we do if forced by sanctions, give employees of schools - not properly trained police officers, but employees - guns and forced them to have a dual purpose of carrying a firearm at school and educating children," said Brownsburg Superintendent Dr. Jim Snapp.

Snapp likes the idea proposed in the Senate, applying for grant money to fund a trained school resource officer. School safety consultant Chuck Hibbert doesn't like the idea of armed teachers, either.

"There are just a whole world of issues with teachers having handguns and shooting them within the confined spaces of a school building," Hibbert said.

"I have been approached by many teachers who want to. They say, 'Give me the ability to protect myself.' The way Indiana reads now, we can do that, as long as they have a license to carry a handgun and permission from the school," Lucas said.

"If a kindergarten teacher is that designated person and he or she is in class with 20 students, do they leave a classroom of five-year olds to address this affair?" Snapp said.

"The bottom line is, to stop an active shooter, and the best way to do that is to be prepared," said Lucas.

"I don't believe anyone should be in the schools, unless it is an officer of the law," Dowling said.

The bill is now headed to the full House. If it passes, it will have to go to conference committee to iron out the differences with the Senate proposal.