By: Robert Davis
Teachers in Lee County School District in southwest Virginia are set to become the first in the state to lead their classrooms while armed when they head back to school this fall, if the courts approve their petition.
“Board members voted unanimously in support of the measure,” WYMT.com reported in July. “‘The only way to fight a gun if somebody comes through these doors with a gun to shoot our students, is with another gun,’ says Michael Kidwell, Lee County School Board Chairman.”
The plan would allow for an undisclosed number of teachers or staff members to carry concealed weapons or store them in safes on campus.
“We adopted this resolution because of our concern for the safety of our students and faculty,” Rob Hines, chairman of the Lee County School Board told Gunpowder Magazine.
Hines said the district looked at other options, such as hiring School Resource Officers (SROs) or purchasing metal detectors, but neither fit into the school district’s budget. Only four of the state’s 11 school districts have funding for SROs.
“I understand that this type of action may not be appropriate in other places like northern Virginia. But, we’re a rural county, and the people around here grew up hunting and have a respect for guns,” Hines told GPM.
Selected applicants would be required to pass a psychological evaluation and a background check and undergo active shooter training. The school board hopes to have armed teachers on campuses by September, but faces legal challenges.
Virginia law prohibits carrying guns on campuses unless the carrier is a “conservator of peace.” The school board is actively petitioning the Virginia courts to allow their teachers to register as conservators. The Washington Post reported:
Kidwell said school employees would seek circuit court approval to be “conservators of the peace,” a designation the system believes will exempt the employees from state law prohibiting firearms on school campuses.
Michael Kelly, a spokesman for the state’s attorney general, said in an email that state law “clearly prohibits guns in schools” except for a few narrow exceptions.
“We recently found out about this scheme, and we’re looking into it,” Kelly said.
“It’s troubling to learn that people are putting so much time and effort into getting around the law and getting more guns into schools when the focus should clearly be on creating a safe, welcoming learning environment.”
When asked about losing students because of the resolution, Hines said only one set of parents has sent him a message saying they are going to move their child to a new school district because of the resolution. So far, though, there’s no evidence of the child moving districts.
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. Contact him with comments or tips at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.