The public schools in Sidney, Ohio aren’t just patrolled by school resource officers. They’ve got back up in the form of armed and trained school staff, and according to a new (and surprisingly fair) report by AFP, staff, students, and parents are on board with the idea and pleased with the results.
On Halloween, as high school students and staff roam the hallways, John Pence — a gun on his belt — patrols calmly.
He is a full-time resource officer, assigned to Sidney High. That arrangement has become commonplace across the country, as the number of school shootings has multiplied.
But he has backup: the response team of armed teachers, who have volunteered for the job.
So far, about 15 states have approved similar set-ups, but many are not happy about putting weapons in the hands of teachers.
Pence rejects the usual arguments, saying: “In some areas, probably it might not work — maybe in a city. But most of these employees have been exposed to some type of firearms training beforehand.”
I disagree that volunteer staff, vetted and trained to serve as a first response in case of an active assailant attack, can’t work in cities or larger school districts. In fact, Florida’s Guardian program is in place in 11 counties around the state, including some fairly large school districts. Elswhere in Ohio, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones has trained hundreds of educators to serve as a first line of defense for students. While armed school staff policies have largely been implemented in smaller and more rural school districts, I think that has far more to do with the politics rather than the policy itself.
In Sidney, teachers don’t carry guns, but keep them locked up in a biometric safe where they can quickly access them if need be. Parents and students interviewed by the AFP all said the policy is basically a non-issue for the community.
David Bishop, who is picking up his granddaughter, says the armed response team at Sidney High is fine with him.
“My granddaughter, she knows how to handle a gun,” he says.
“Her brother and dad have guns, her mother too. She’s too young yet, but they have taught her how to respect a gun and how to use it if needed.”
High school senior Tom, who is 18 and asked that his last name not be used, said students hardly talk about “the program” in their free time.
“We all know the weapons are there, but it doesn’t really concern us. I know they are locked up in a safe; the kids can’t get them,” he said.
He says he has faith in the teachers to protect him.
“I like the idea. It makes me feel safe because I know they are specially trained if an intruder comes in and they are able to stop him,” Tom said.
The program seems to be working without any issue in Sidney, Ohio, but then again, there’s not a school district anywhere in the country that I’m aware of that’s put an armed staff policy in place only to rescind it because of issues after implementation. Nor am I aware of any district that attempted to have trained school staff, but couldn’t because of a lack of volunteers. Hundreds of school districts around the country have quietly put programs like this in place over the last few years, and the movement is showing no real signs of slowing. The folks in Sidney speaking out about their experiences with armed school staff aren’t the exception. They’re the norm; teachers, parents, and students who feel better knowing that the kids in classrooms across Sidney are protected by staffers who are trained, vetted, and prepared in case of an attack in one of the schools.