Compass: Armed guards in schools? OK, but they better be professionals

By VAL VAN BROCKLINJanuary 20, 2013 

I've been a teacher. I got my certification in an elementary school.

For over 25 years, I've worked with law enforcement - as a prosecutor, trainer and author. I presently train police and trooper recruits on the legal use of non-deadly and deadly force in the protection of self, others and property.

I also have some experience with firearms. I've hunted for over 20 years. I carry concealed and open. I've completed a CCW permit class with legal instruction and range work as well as 3-day and 5-day tactical pistol trainings (alongside law enforcement and military personnel) and numerous 8-hour classes. These trainings included range work and intensive indoor, outdoor and low light, live fire simulation.

I thought I was pretty skookum with a firearm - for a civilian - until I went through some basics in the Firearms Training Simulator at the Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS) Academy. Think of yourself inside a realistic video game. I was armed with a laser Glock and had a heart monitor strapped around my chest. I hit 180 on the monitor. I also killed an undercover cop, two innocent civilians caught up in a bank robbery, and lost track of the times I got myself shot.

Allowing schools to designate teachers who could pack in the classroom for the purpose of protecting students and staff, as Rep. Bob Lynn of Anchorage has proposed in a bill, is ill-conceived. No matter that the bill would require such teachers "to undergo training."

A nurse's aide has training. So does a neurosurgeon. Which one do you want doing brain surgery? I rank the marksmanship, gun handling and split second "shoot" "don't shoot" decision making skills in a chaotic, kid filled, life or death incident right up there with brain surgery. I want the best-trained there is. I want them current in their training and proficient in the latest skills and techniques any time they're operating.

If teachers are going to carry guns, they better be trained what to do when someone tries to take it away. Real-world weapon retention can require ground fighting. So must the training. Police know that if an assailant takes your weapon from you, he will try to murder you with it 80 percent of the time. If an assailant makes a second attempt to take your weapon, you will be murdered 80 percent of the time.

Will "designated" teachers be required to get a physical exam and psychological test before such training and carrying? Cops are.

Who is going to provide the training and where? If it involves simulator training, how many are there in Alaska? Will "designated" teachers travel to locations that can provide adequate training, testing and standards? Who will pay for trainers, training, equipment and insurance?

What about the cost of recurrent training, testing and qualifying? These skills are highly degradable. New and better techniques are always evolving, as must training in them. Just ask any cop or firearms instructor.

What about liabilities for negligent training, for negligent "designation" of a particular teacher, for negligently using deadly force, for negligently failing to shoot? Who is going to assume them?

Will these "designated" teachers receive training on the legal use of deadly force? Who will develop the use of force policies and procedures for such "designated" teachers? Public safety policies and procedures are more restrictive than Alaska statutes governing when deadly force may be used. How do you think a teacher or school would fare in a lawsuit involving deadly force in the absence of any guidelines?

All these questions have been answered for Alaska's law enforcement officers. I have no objection to schools and communities deciding they want an armed presence in schools. Many schools already have them. They're called School Resource Officers and they are trained and certified police officers. The Anchorage Police Department School Resource Officer Program is well-established.

Want such officers in more schools? Fund them. Not willing to? What makes you think arming teachers to protect kids and staff will be cheaper - in money or lives?

Val Van Brocklin was a state and federal prosecutor in Alaska who now trains and writes for law enforcement nationwide. She lives in Anchorage.

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