October 31, 2013 in City

Sandpoint-area school district won’t arm teachers

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The school district serving the Sandpoint area is no longer considering a proposal to arm teachers and other staff members as a security measure, the superintendent said.

There is little support among the district staff for such a measure, and the board of trustees is divided on the idea, Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent Shawn Woodward said.

“We are not finished with the broader issue of school safety,” Woodward said.

He’s discussing options with Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and members of his staff along with receiving input from the school board, parents and residents.

“No one solution has yet been selected for recommendation to the board,” he said.

School Board Chairman Steve Youngdahl triggered a community debate earlier this fall when he outlined his proposal to place guns in secure locations inside district schools and train select teachers, administrators and other employees to use them in case of a school shooting.

Arming staff members would be especially effective in the district’s most vulnerable schools – those farthest from emergency responders, Youngdahl said. Five of the district’s 11 schools are in rural areas.

“I found out our response time for some of our outlying campuses could be as long as 20 minutes,” he said in a previous interview.

He suggested that volunteers at each school could be trained in armed response at the direction of law enforcement. The guns would use a fingerprint locking system that restricts their use to those authorized to handle them, he added.

A survey of school district employees showed that just 8 percent of teachers and other certified staff and 14 percent of classified staff favored giving select staff members access to guns, Woodward said. He also has not supported a policy to arm staff members and said no consensus in support of it has emerged among the school trustees.

Mindy Cameron, a school board member for 10 years, has been vocal in her opposition to placing guns in schools.

“I think we’re back on track now, basically,” Cameron said Wednesday. “By policy and board protocol, these kinds of issues should always go first to the superintendent to do the background and the research and present a recommendation to the board. It’s clear that is what’s happening now.”

The proposal never had broad support among school officials, she added.

“In fact it was one board member, the chair, who was very interested in this, and there was never any real demonstrated interest in that from the rest of the board or the superintendent,” Cameron said.

Some residents recently launched an effort to recall Youngdahl over his proposal. Youngdahl could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

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