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Armed teachers would be trained to deal with danger, officials say

GILLETTE — If a proposal gets final approval, armed educators in the Campbell County School District will be trained to run toward danger, not away from it.

That’s what Larry Reznicek, human resources manager in the school district, told those gathered Tuesday night as he answered what if and scenario-related questions from the public. The number of district employees at the hearing outnumbered those who showed up to make comments and asked questions during the 30-minute session.

“This is intended for the very worst moment that could ever happen in a school district,” Reznicek said as he responded to a question about what the training and psychological evaluations for armed staff would entail.

Leigh Jacobs, who asked the question, said she worries about hidden biases and whether kids acting out in crisis could be harmed.

“This is not because two kids are having fisticuffs, this is not because of an argument in a lunch room, this is that one horrid moment that we all dread,” Reznicek said. “That’s what the training would be for.

“It’s not about shooting a firearm. It’s about preparing yourself mentally and not backing away from danger, going to the danger and mitigating it quickly.”

He said de-escalation techniques would be involved in training scenarios. And the pysch evaluations are the same as those given to applicants for the police that’s designed to discover a person’s tendencies and not simply a pass or fail test.

“I get a little bit nervous for students who might be targeted” if they are just acting out or acting abnormal, said Jacobs, who brought her three school-age children with her.

She said she worries that someone would consider a student who is acting out as a target “by someone who is carrying when they’re not really a threat. I think about that a lot.”

Reznicek also fielded four questions from retired Gillette teacher Vicki Swenson, some she asked for others who couldn’t attend.

She asked what the estimated cost to the district would be per applicant since the district would pay for everything except holsters and firearms. That includes ammunition, lock boxes, evaluations, drug and alcohol tests and 56 hours of training.

Officials haven’t compiled an estimate, Reznicek said.

As a member of the two committees that wrote the proposal after more than 30 hours of work, he said the psych evaluations would cost about $500 each, the drug and alcohol tests would be between $75-$100 and background checks about $50-$75. He based those costs on information given by the Police Department.

District officials have said the training likely will make up the bulk of the cost.

Swenson said she also was talking to other retired teachers who questioned if it would be possible for a teacher to teach in a classroom and also conceal carry.

“How the heck do you teach and conceal?” she asked. “A teacher in a classroom, it’s going to be pretty hard to conceal the weapons. I know people that do (conceal), but if you’re a man you can’t wear a shirt or a T-shirt. There’s just a lot of obstacles to be able to effectively conceal.”

Reznicek said that also will be covered in training.

“If you notice, it does absolutely say concealed firearm. This is not going to be like when you see a police officer at the school, that’s on his belt.,” he said. “It’s meant to conceal, it’s not to scare or to be braggadocious, to show off. It’s meant to conceal and there will be lots of training on that.”

Justine Schuff thanked school officials for putting the proposal in place at just six rural schools (Conestoga, Rozet, Rawhide, 4-J, Little Powder and Recluse), if approved.

“I think it’s important to personally have the opportunity to opt out or in,” she said. “I’m against it, but I think it’s a fairly good option.”

She also asked about a section of the proposal that the district’s armed educator committee would review a person’s status for concealed carry if it was revealed he or she had a weapon.

“Can it be physically revealed or if it’s like seen under your clothing or what if rumors are going around and they are accurate?” she said.

Reznicek replied that’s why the issue of a reveal was added to the proposal.

“We thought it was important to be able to say in that policy, OK, maybe that person doesn’t carry anymore and how would we address that,” he said.

“I guess I’m more concerned about the teacher’s safety,” Schuff said, adding that she worries that if there were a school shooting, teachers would be targeted on the assumption they might be armed.

Reznicek said under questioning Tuesday that conceal carry educators or employees would have live rounds in their weapons and no safety or other device on them, similar to the way police officers are trained.

Swenson also wondered if there were an active shooter and students and teachers were told to shelter in place, what would happen if a teacher was carrying under the policy. Would that teacher remain with the class to protect students or leave to handle the situation?

“It’s like anything, ‘Watch my class, I’m going to the danger,’” Reznicek responded. “You know, Vicki, that they’re going to take care of that class first. … They’ll train for that specific situation.”

Reznicek said while the district wants to be transparent as it considers the proposal, there also is some reluctance to talk about specific scenarios because that would give clues to potential shooters.

“Part of this too, and I’m telling the group, is that one of the things that is very tough is when we lay all our cards out on the table and we say these things,” he said. “There is an element of trying to make sure that people don’t know what we’re doing because once they know ... they’re going to have a work-around for that.

Reznicek said school trustees want to know what the public thinks about the proposal and people can do that at two remaining listening sessions, through letters or with online comments.

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