With Thursday’s shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, the discussion around guns has returned to school shootings. However, as we all know, schools are gun-free zones. We also know that California might as well be a gun-free zone, what with all the gun control in the state.
Clearly, it didn’t work.
However, on the other side of the country, a school system recognized the fact that words on a paper can only provide so much protection. Instead, giving teachers the means to protect their own lives. In fact, this system is the first in the state of Georgia to do so.
Laurens County, a rural community 2.5 hours south of Atlanta is making history in the state of Georgia, by adopting extraordinary school safety measures, to protect children from harm.
It is the first school district in the state to put guns in the hands of some of its teachers and staff members. Outside every school building in the county is a yellow sign that reads, in part: “Warning. Staff members are armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force.”
I personally think that sign is going to do a lot more to deter potential shooters than anything else. It’ll serve to tell them that the prey within the building won’t be unprotected, a stark reminder that they aren’t allowed to kill with impunity.
Like so many other measures, this one had its basis in the Parkland massacre.
Laurens County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Dan Brigman spearheaded the initiative in 2018, after the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, in which 17 innocent students and staff were killed. “Parkland woke me up as a superintendent,” he said. “I had a detailed discussion with not only our Board of Education, but with local law enforcement as well, about ways we can improve our response time and preserve lives in our buildings, God forbid a tragedy like that happens in Laurens County Schools.”
After weeks of research and planning, the initiative was voted on by the Board of Education in April of 2018. It passed unanimously and officially launched the following fall, for the 2018-2019 school year. Approximately 28 staff members participated year one. Now, in year two, (the 2019-2020 school year) there are 45 armed staff members.
One of the primary reasons for implementing the policy, known as GAMB, is because of how large the county is. Laurens County spans roughly 800 square miles, making it the third largest in the state; If an active shooter were to take aim at a school here, it could take 5-10 minutes (or more) for the closest law enforcement officer to respond. “If there is an active shooter, every second counts,” said Brigman. He says having trained staff members on-site and ready to respond to a threat could save countless lives.
“You may have 5 police officers on a street corner in Atlanta, where we wouldn’t have that here, so I think it all boils down to what would fit your community best.”
I’m a little bummed that this didn’t happen in my town. I’m a Georgia resident and have been for all my life, but I don’t live in Laurens County, so my community hasn’t gone down this road.
I’m not surprised, mind you. For one thing, we’ve got school resource officers which many will likely feel to be sufficient. For another, we’re not exactly early adopters here. When people were freaking about the CDC flying Ebola patients into Atlanta for treatment, I made the comment then that even if it broke containment, we’d be fine. We’re the last to get everything, so why would Ebola be any different?
In reality, armed teachers is probably right up there as well.
However, Laurens County makes a good point. For their rural area, there isn’t going to be a huge police presence. Armed teachers mean an immediate response to something like Santa Clarita, rather than allowing a rampage to go on for far, far longer. Assuming the presence of armed teachers doesn’t prevent shootings outright.
That is a win either way you slice it.
What the school hasn’t had, other than shootings? Problems.
It’s time every state and every community allows armed teachers.