Many of America's rural schools have a problem: when police are needed, they often take far too long to arrive. In Missouri, some rural schools are getting around the gap by arming teachers.
And the kicker? It seems to be a hugely popular choice.
Meet the students and staff of Fairview, a school where the sheriff's department would take at least nine minutes to respond to an emergency call:
The school board, which includes a former county sheriff, worked out the details of liability coverage with Fairview’s insurance provider. Then, at an open meeting in late February, it authorized some of the school employees to undergo a training program that would certify them to carry guns on campus.
Those employees took a 40-hour course during spring break last month through a company called Shield Solutions, whose instructors included local SWAT team members. The training, which was paid for by the school, included firearms and situational drills. The employees, who have furnished their own guns, each also had to pass a background check, a drug test and a mental evaluation — all of which must be repeated annually, as well as additional firearms training and recertification.
“It’s not a ‘Well, here’s your gun; carry it,’ ” said Vic Williams, the Fairview superintendent. “It’s very closely monitored. It’s not a Clint Eastwood-type deal.”
At the first school board meeting after spring break, the board sanctioned those who had passed the training — and were then also considered Shield Solutions employees — to carry weapons at school. Most of West Plains learned the news from the front-page article in The Quill on March 21. Four days later, the district sent a letter to parents addressing concerns. ...
With few exceptions, school officials said, parents have reacted positively.