In a 6-0 vote, the Emporia School Board passed a proposal Jan. 9 to arm the security guards at both the Emporia high school and middle school. The proposal will go into effect Feb. 1.
“Most schools have School Resource Officers who are commissioned – they have always carried a gun,” said Andy Koenigs, associate superintendent for personnel for USD 253. “We’re just catching up to the trend.”
While the Newtown, Conn. massacre reignited the gun control debate in America, Koenigs said the proposal was not related to the event and that it was part of a larger scale plan for the school district’s crisis plan.
“We take the safety of our students and the security of our buildings very seriously, so I’m glad that extra steps are being taken to help us do that more effectively,” said Jared Giffin, assistant principal at Emporia High School. “Along with arming our security officers, a committee of people will be meeting to update our district crisis plans and create a district security plan for our Board of Education to review later this year.”
The middle and high schools currently have one guard each who are retired Emporia police officers, and Giffin said the guard at the high school, Jeff Illk, was already their School Resource Officer. Both guards receive yearly training and must meet certification standards with their approved firearms. He said the officers would carry firearms in triple retention holsters, “like what students and patrons see officers wearing at football games when ESU police are present.”
Michael Morales, associate professor of physical sciences and father of a senior student at EHS, said that as long as the guards are properly trained, both in their firearms and in the use of them inside schools, he supports the proposal.
“I asked (my daughter) what she thought, and she said that she would feel weird…just having guns in school would be weird,” Morales said.
Morales said his daughter does see the value in arming guards, and if there were ever an instance of a shooter in the school, she would want the guard to be able to at least respond to the shooter.
Morales said that while he supports the arming of the guards, he has also heard of other school districts trying to pass measures that would allow teachers to have guns, and this is too far. He also supports the fact that the school board is working towards reassessing their crisis plans.
Koenigs said the Department of Homeland Security averages the response time to a shooter at five to nine minutes, but that a shooter has usually ceased fire before then. He also said the schools will have to increase their insurance and that training will require some extra money, but the exact figures were unavailable by press time on Wednesday.