Senate leaders want to pay teachers to carry guns in classrooms

March 8, 2019 GMT

Three Senate leaders are behind the latest attempt to arm teachers in the name of school safety.

Senate Bill 192, dubbed the School Security Act of 2019, would give teachers a 5 percent raise to become sworn police officers. The teachers could carry concealed weapons in their classrooms and would have arrest powers under the proposal, which was filed Wednesday.

Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said he’s heard from teachers who want to be armed at work.

“We have a lot of teachers right now that have previous military experience, and others, when armed, could be very valuable in protecting the school and particularly protecting individual students,” said Hise, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Similar bills have failed in previous years, but they didn’t have the backing of people like Hise, Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Hise said arming teachers isn’t much different than having armed school resource officers, who are sworn law enforcement officers. But Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the similarity ends there.

“Everyone wants safe school environments. However, we feel that this is a very dangerous approach and a disaster waiting to happen,” Jewell said.

Teachers want more social workers and psychologists in their schools, not more weapons, he said.

House leaders also are leery about arming teachers. School safety bills that passed the chamber this week focused on physical upgrades to protect schools, possible mental health screening for students and a course to teach civic responsibility.

Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, who led a study committee that developed the House bills, refused to consider any gun proposals, saying training wouldn’t prepare teachers for an active shooter among students.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson remains opposed to the idea of arming teachers, according to his spokesman, Drew Elliot.

“He believes that we already ask so much of teachers that we should not ask them to take on the massive responsibility of having a firearm in the classroom,” Elliot said in a text message to WRAL News.

James Ford, a member of the State Board of Education and a former North Carolina teacher of the year, likewise said he’s disturbed by the idea of deputizing and arming teachers.

“If you ask most teachers, they don’t want guns,” Ford said. “What they want is support [and] professional development. They want to be able to collaborate. They don’t want guns.”

“A bill like that sets up a tragic situation, and it’s particularly dangerous for kids of color,” the father of four added.

Hise said he doesn’t see it that way. Arming teachers would make classrooms safer, he said.

“That means there’s more protection within our schools,” he said. “I’m not someone who’s going to look at a gun and see an inherent evil. It’s the person who can wield it, the person who can protect it. Those type of things are what determine the outcomes.”