Guns in Schools: Virginia Educators Concerned about Governor's Interest in School Staff Carrying Weapons

Representatives of three state education agencies issued a rebuttal to Gov. McDonnell's comments about possibly allowing teachers and other school staff to carry weapons.

Virginia educators said they are concerned about the governor’s interest in allowing teachers and staff members to carry guns into schools, noting violence prevention isn’t an issue of more guns, but more funding.

Officials with three education associations—the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals (VASSP), the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals (VAESP) and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS)—released a statement Friday.

The statement came shortly after the National Rifle Association (NRA) called for "armed security" around schools but was in response to statements earlier this week by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The education organizations said they appreciate Gov. McDonnell’s efforts to begin talks about increased safety in schools in light of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but they think other options should be explored. 

The Republican governor discussed Virginia schools during a Tuesday interview on WTOP.

When asked about the idea of allowing adults, supervisors, principals and teachers to be armed inside schools in Virginia, the governor said the idea should at least be discussed.

"If people were armed, not just a police officer but other officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors from coming into a school,” McDonnell said.

School safety is a deep-rooted issue and research indicates a “thoughtful” approach to safety in schools, one that goes beyond school campuses and into the communities, is needed in order to protect children, officials with the three associations said.

“ … We are concerned, however, with the governor’s interest in permitting staff to carry firearms as a possible deterrent to violence in schools,” officials wrote in the joint statement issued Friday. “We believe the problem is more complex and the conversation needs to encompass other and more diverse solutions …”

Additionally, educational practices and programs that support the social, behavioral and emotional needs of the students is needed, state educators said.

“We cannot and should not turn our schools into fortresses,” said Ben Kiser, VASS president and superintendent of Gloucester County Schools. 

“Effective prevention cannot wait until there is a gunman in a school parking lot; we need resources such as School Resource Officers, assistant principals, mental health supports and threat assessment teams in every school and community so that people can seek assistance when they recognize that someone is troubled and requires help.”

The roles of school resource officers and assistant principals should be well defined, followed by an increase in funding for both positions—funding that was decreased by the state general assembly, officials said.

The Virginia Standards of Quality should be amended and require there be one principal in each school building. It should also require an assistant principal be in place for schools with 400 or more students, which is different from the current requirement of 600 students, educators wrote in the release.

Funding for support staff and non-classroom personnel has also been cut by lawmakers, educators said.

Employees in these positions could served as the “eyes and ears” of the schools, according to the release.

"Our children deserve better," former VASSP president Carolyn Bernard, said. “With continuous cuts, existing staff are being forced to try to accomplish much more with less. It is becoming difficult to focus on developing relationships and encouraging engagement with students."

Educators suggest school construction funds could potentially be used to encourage local school divisions to address security. Many older buildings and facilities were constructed prior to the current guidelines and regulations, educators said in the joint statement.

More on this issue: 

NRA Calls for 'Armed Security' Around Schools

Del. Marshall: Some School Staff should Carry Guns

Sen. Warner: Newtown a 'Game Changer' on Guns

Speak Out: Should Teachers Be Armed?

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Mark Carolla December 22, 2012 at 04:53 PM
The Governor is tone deaf on education at all levels. In addition to seeking to inject the arms of the Old West into our schools; note that he reappointed Ms. Dragas as rector at UVA after the scandal there provoked by the Board of Visitor's antics.
Don Joy December 22, 2012 at 05:28 PM
These people are utterly brainless. They are so devoted to left-wing ideology that they'd leave our children as sitting ducks for the next school massacre. It is sickening to watch such incompetetent ideologues at the highest levels refuse to protect our children by simply putting armed security at each school. The one thing that could have stopped or lessened the carnage at Sandy Hook elementary school is the one thing they won't put in place! These mass shooters choose their targets specifically because they are in "gun-free zones"--they know that their victims will be defenseless thanks to delusional leftist policies. You have not heard the end of this, by far.
Don Joy December 22, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Wayne LaPierre: "We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers. Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless, and the monsters and the predators of the world know it, and exploit it." (You leftists don't have problem with arming bodyguards for prominent people, and security guards at events, airports, banks, etc.) "If we truly cherish our kids, more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible," LaPierre said. "And that security is only available with properly trained, armed 'good guys.' "
Don Joy December 22, 2012 at 05:49 PM
If more guns aren't the answer, then tell me, why are the police always called to these incidents?
Barbara Glakas December 22, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Fairfax County already has police officers assigned to each of its middle schools and high schools. And the state of Virginia already has a fund in which it provides grant money to school systems that choose to take advantage of that program and provide officers within its schools. School systems could look into expanding the use of that program, but arming teachers is not the answer.
Don Joy December 22, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Barbara, you're wrong. My son's elementary school in Fairfax County does not have anyone armed stationed there to protect the children. But if I have anything to do with it, that will change soon. Barring actual police or security, arming some teachers is better than leaving our kids as sitting ducks. I have worked with police officers who were still comparatively lousy shots after 30 years of training and practice, and I have seen civilians who were ace marksmen in their spare time. Many teachers are already armed, in some places. But regardless of whether it's teachers or whoever to protect our children, the bottom line for many delusional people in this debate is that is that it is better for our kids to be left as sitting ducks for the next shooter. Their leftist ideology and ignorance about specifics of gun issues trumps even the most basic common sense.
Lindsay H. December 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Columbine had an armed police resource officer. He was not the one to stop the massacre. 13 people died. It ended when the attackers took their own lives. I teach in ES, I want to be safe but arming teachers is not the answer.
Don Joy December 22, 2012 at 10:29 PM
The fact that the guard at Columbine mainly failed makes what point? Why don't you instead point to the numerous situtions where armed guards and armed civilians did stop mass shooters? Just because the leftist media hides the facts from you doesn't mean you can't find them with a little due diligence. Or is it that you object to countervailing force being brought against shooters such as Lanza? http://www.humanevents.com/2012/12/19/ann-coulter-we-know-how-to-stop-school-shootings/
Don Joy December 22, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Lindsay H. December 22, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I'm an independent voter- I don't think this is a left or right issue. Pretending we can ban guns from society isn't the answer but neither is simply adding guns to schools. There are too many issues that need to be addressed. Mental health, assault rifles, etc.... If armed guards is part of the solution to start safety- I am not entirely opposed, but there needs to be things happening on both sides. People should not be walking around with guns made for war and people with a clear mental health issue should require monitoring outside of family members. We are a civilized nation- we can't depend entirely on guns.
Barbara Glakas December 23, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Don, Note that I said FCPS has police officers in Middle and High Schools. I did not say Elementary schools.
Don Joy December 23, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Noted, but when I hear "middle school" I think of elementary. When I went to school, we had primary, elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. The school in Newtown is elementary, as is my son's. SOMEONE must be armed there to protect the kids. Calling police after the fact doesn't cut it. I favor guards or police in all schools.
James December 23, 2012 at 01:12 AM
I get more disgusted at clueless media and political pundits who seem to be able to attack the straw man that they can conceptualize in their limited scope, the gun owner. Politicizing this massacre is utterly disgusting. I have stopped watching any television news, save foreign media. In addition, over the last week, I have seen so little attention paid to the many selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors out there.
Don Joy December 23, 2012 at 01:24 AM
I've seen it reported in the British press that Lanza had his own devil-worship website, called himself the devil, etc. "Earlier this week, another former classmate revealed the gunman worshiped the devil and had an online page dedicated to Satan and his childhood barber recalled he never spoke and would stare at the floor every time he had his hair cut. "Lanza's worshiping page had the word 'Devil' written in red, Gothic-style letters against a black background, Trevor L. Todd told The National Enquirer, something which he said was 'weird' and 'gave him the chills'." http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250661/Adam-Lanza-apart-reassemble-MINUTES-classmate-reveals.html
James December 23, 2012 at 04:29 AM
I guess we'll see as the evidence of the story becomes more publicly available. At the very least, we know that degenerate freak committed an act of pure evil.


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