Safety in schools is a major concern for parents, students, and educators across the United States. Debates on the best methods for preventing school shootings are ongoing and have sparked tensions along political lines. EdLF’s Spencer Weiler, PhD, hopes to add data to this conversation.
In November 2020 Weiler worked with Jacob D. Skousen, Jason Kopanke, and Luke Cornelius to publish a paper titled, “Taking Aim at Preventing School Shootings: A Comparative Analysis of School Board Policy Related to the Practice of Arming Educators.” The paper is available in the Journal of School Violence and provides insight into the current place of firearms in schools.
The paper includes a qualitative analysis of the policies of 14 school districts in 13 states regarding whether district employees are allowed to carry weapons at school. “We sought to answer the following research questions: What topics are addressed in school board policies related to arming employees? What outlying policy topics are addressed in school board policies related to arming employees?” the authors write. The purpose of the paper is not to make a comment on the correctness of arming school personnel but to answer these questions. The article is important to understanding what policies are currently in place and will aid further research on the effects of these policies in school systems and the creation of future policies.
Arming educators is a less-expensive alternative to hiring new resource officers in every school, but it does have drawbacks. Effectiveness of armed educators is situational and could put students at risk when they are meant to be protected. In addition to this, the authors write, “efforts to augment school safety, such as arming educators, can also negatively influence the physical and emotional wellbeing of students and staff members and diminish the overall climate of the school.” This is one of the many issues to be considered when making security plans and deciding what place firearms have in a school.
The paper breaks its findings into the role of the school board, the role of the superintendent, why the policy was instituted, who can be an armed employee, training requirements for armed employees, when the use of deadly force is allowed, and firearms given to educators. Each of these topics has its own subsection in which strategies of the school districts are examined and compared to one another.
Discussion around the place of firearms in society is ongoing and sometimes difficult, but the authors conclude the paper on an optimistic note: “By adding to the body of empirical data related to the practice of arming school district employees, we hope future policy statements will appropriately address all of the nuances associated with providing school district employees with firearms as a means to increasing school safety.”
Writer: Camille Ladd