KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In 2014 the Missouri legislature approved a school protection officer program allowing school districts to designate teachers or administrators who volunteer to carry concealed firearms.
Two dozen Missouri school districts have notified the Department of Public Safety of 52 designated school protection officers since the program’s inception. Programs in Columbia Missouri and Missouri State University-Camdenton instruct teachers or administrators on some of the same standards and training as peace officers.
A majority of those came after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The exact number of armed teachers in Missouri is unclear, however, according to the Department of Public Safety. Teachers can also be trained at unaffiliated programs.
When a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas killing 19 students and two teachers, Grandview’s Mark Warren was already in Texas.
“The raw emotion of how this affects a community can never be explained.,” Warren said.
He’s in Edna, Texas training teachers there how to carry firearms in schools through Texas’s Guardian Program.
“In the Guardian program we really emphasize the idea they are defensive in posture they aren’t to go after the shooter,” Warren said.
They learn how to protect the classroom by barricading doors first, but also how to handle the gun around others in training scenarios. Two days of the five-day program are spent on the range.
The President of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers was also heartbroken by the tragedy in Texas.
“We should not be concerned when we walk in our classrooms on if that day you might not come out alive,” Local 691 President Jason Roberts said.
But Roberts hopes it doesn’t lead to more teachers carrying firearms in the classroom in Missouri.
“I think the idea of arming teachers is one of the stupidest ideas that you can have,” Roberts said.
He worries the gun could fall in the wrong hands and teachers known to be carrying would become targets. He also believes Kansas City schools already are secure.
“Most schools now have been designed or redesigned so you can’t get to the hallways without going through at least two doors,” Roberts said.
“You can have a controlled access building but if people aren’t trained to use that building you don’t really have security,” Warren countered.
Warren says each school district he works with is different. Some put gun safes in every classroom so no one except the trained guardians knows where the guns really are. But since the first step should be to secure the room, not to open a safe, Warren advises the best place for teachers to keep the gun is on them.