Sunny

43°F

Powell, WY

Sunny

Humidity: 38%

Wind: 14 mph

Guns in schools? Cody school board discusses possibility of staff carrying concealed weapons

Cody school district superintendent Ray Schulte (left) and Park County School District No. 6 trustees Rebecca George and Jenni Rosencranse are pictured at a Cody school board meeting Tuesday evening. Cody school resource officer Rayna Wortham (far right) attended the meeting and answered questions from the board. Cody school district superintendent Ray Schulte (left) and Park County School District No. 6 trustees Rebecca George and Jenni Rosencranse are pictured at a Cody school board meeting Tuesday evening. Cody school resource officer Rayna Wortham (far right) attended the meeting and answered questions from the board. Tribune photo by Tessa Baker

Before figuring out whether to allow school staff to have concealed weapons on campus, the Cody school board wants to find out if anyone would sign up.

During a Tuesday discussion in Cody, Park County School District No. 6 Board of Trustees Vice Chair Jenni Rosencranse asked if the district even knows how many employees have concealed carry permits, and whether they would be willing to carry at school.

“I think we could spend tons of time on this subject — tons — and not know the answers to those questions,” Rosencranse said.

The Cody school board devoted more than an hour to the topic Tuesday night, discussing a 28-page guidance manual from the Wyoming Department of Education that explores the School Safety and Security Act. The Wyoming Legislature passed the bill earlier this year, clearing the way for local school boards to allow employees to carry guns under certain conditions.

The Department of Education released its guidance manual earlier this week. While the possibility of a concealed carry policy is being discussed in Cody and Meeteetse school districts, Park County School District No. 1 in Powell doesn’t plan to pursue one at this time.

“We decided we will address the issue if and when we get a request from an employee desiring to carry a gun in school,” Greg Borcher, Powell school board chairman, said Wednesday. “Then we will work with Tracy Copenhaver, who is our attorney, the Powell police chief and the Park County sheriff to arrive at a policy that is best for our students and their safety.”

On Tuesday, Cody school board trustees decided to put out a survey to their district employees about the new gun law.

“There is no question that there’s people who are willing to step up and do it,” said trustee Scott Weber, who said the district needs to move forward with a policy.

Fellow trustee Tom Keegan asked what Cody will be teaching kids about guns if the district develops a concealed carry policy.

“If we put a sign on the wall that says, ‘Concealed weapons present,’ is that going to keep people away? Well, it might, but what’s it say to our kids, too?” Keegan said. “That we’re solving these problems like what happened in Las Vegas or wherever by us carrying guns? I think that’s a difficult one, and I’d be interested in hearing what our staff has to say about that.”

Cody school district superintendent Ray Schulte said employees will want to know details about the policy — such as whether a psychological evaluation will be required or if employees have to pay for training themselves.

“I think until they know that, I’m not sure if they can answer the survey,” Schulte said.

But when it comes to details of a potential policy — such as a psychological evaluation — Cody trustees appeared to disagree Tuesday night.

“Why would you psych eval a teacher? You would never need to do that,” Weber said.

When some in the audience reacted, Weber responded, “You think teachers are psychos? I don’t.”

Trustee William Struemke added, “Which teachers need it? I hear laughing. See me afterwards if you think there’s a teacher that needs [one] … I’d like to know about them.”

“I assure you there are no teachers that we employ that need a psych evaluation,” Weber said.

Board chair Kelly Simone said that personally, she’s interested in a mental health evaluation for employees who apply to carry concealed weapons in schools.

Trustees also discussed the financial costs of adopting a policy to arm employees.

Rosencranse said she’s “very concerned” about what workers’ compensation and insurance costs look like. She said she’d like to get answers up front to see if it’s a policy the district is going to be able to implement and sustain.

The question of who would pay for training and the firearms also came up.

“It either results in a certain cost for the participant, or it results in a certain cost for the district,” said trustee Stefanie Bell. “And if we’re going to go this deep into it, we need to start establishing at least rudimentary costs.”

Weber, who owns a firearms store in downtown Cody, said there are trainers willing to provide free instruction for school employees.

“We can’t expect the district ... to foot $2,500 to $3,000 per person,” Weber said. “I don’t see that at all in this climate; we’re running a deficit budget next year.”

He also said school employees could carry their own firearm, rather than a district-issued gun. Weber served on the state committee that helped draft the Department of Education’s guide on school safety and security.

During the committee’s discussions, “it was suggested that applicants would have their own firearm for a variety of reasons — they’re used to it, maybe they’ve shot thousands of rounds through it,” Weber said. “And then they bear that cost — it’s their gun.”

Weber said the gun would be maintained according to standards given to the trainers.

The guns that employees carry would have to be authorized, Struemke said.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling people, here are your choices, these are the authorized firearms, these are the authorized calibers, and should you decide to be a part of this, this is what you’re going to comply with,” Struemke said. “And if they’re not cool with that, they really feel they need to run down and get the biggest shotgun, it’s their concealed carry, they’ll shove it down their pant leg and they’ll show you, then [they] don’t need to be a part of it.”

Trustee Bell asked whether it would be acceptable to insurance companies if school employees carried personal firearms, and if that would increase the district’s liabilities.

Before adopting a policy on concealed carry for staff, Cody trustees have questions for local law enforcement, their attorneys and the district.

“Some of it might be determining, based on our answers, if people are comfortable with even proceeding with policy,” Simone said.

The school board also is planning to get public input. At Tuesday’s work session, the board did not ask for comments from those in attendance, but Simone said there would be “ample opportunity” for public comment in the future. Rosencranse also suggested surveying parents in the district.

Trustee Rebecca George said she also wants to know what school security measures are already in place in Cody schools.

“Have we looked at doing active shooter trainings in our schools? Have we looked at using non-lethal weapons in our schools? I mean, what have we actually looked at?” George asked. “We’re talking about going from, I don’t know, maybe minimal to arming our teachers. Is there anything in the middle that we have done? I think we need to address that, and I know our public has asked us to do so.”

12 comments

  • posted by Bill Tallen

    October 12, 2017 8:02 pm

    Jeff, when facts and reason fail, some people turn to insults. Sorry you had to go that way. I can see there's no point in repeating myself on the issues, as we're talking past each other. Carry on, and may the side of right and reason win.

  • posted by Jeff Demoney

    October 09, 2017 7:13 pm

    Mr. Talen, if only we could all be as smart as you. Again, your view is guns or die. You totally miss the point that you bad mouth a current board member for not looking at case histories when there are not any. None. There is NO evidence that this would prevent, help, or change anything. You live in fear I choose not to. You lack the capacity of looking past your own selfish interests or ego.

  • posted by Bill Tallen

    October 09, 2017 12:31 pm

    Jeff Demoney, "No armed people in Cody and no shootings in the last 200 years" is an odd comment (given that Cody is only 116 years old), and kind of laughable on the face of it. Let me try to parse your actual meaning. I assume you meant to say "no armed people in the schools" but that's an unprovable assumption. Up until the late 20th Century there were no laws regarding firearms in schools and their presence or absence is simply unknowable. Since the federal Gun Free School Zone Act first passed in 1990 there have been "no guns" in American schools except for those brought in during the 254 school shootings from then until now. The schools where these shootings have NOT happened include all those who allow concealed carry by staff and/or citizens. I'm sorry if you lack the capacity make inferences from incomplete data. What there is absolutely "no proof of" is that "gun free zones" have done anything to make schools safer. Even gun-free Wyoming schools have experienced shootings in recent years, in Cokeville and Sheridan. If you want to roll the dice and gamble on a continued run of good luck for Cody, go right ahead. We'll move forward without you.

  • posted by Jeff Demoany

    October 06, 2017 6:02 pm

    Mr. Talen, well at least you are honest. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT ARMED STAFF MAKE A DIFFERENCE. No armed people in Cody and no shootings in the last 200 years.

  • posted by Scott T. Weber

    October 06, 2017 11:23 am

    The reporter for this article on School Security in regard to the Cody School Board does not have the "big picture" by any means (seems they just popped in for one session and did not interview board members). Let me provide some vital details they missed: 1. The Cody School has met on two occasions with local enforcement officials. BOTH the Park County Sheriff (the highest LE authority in the county) and the Cody Police Chief stated to the board that they SUPPORT armed security with proper training in our schools. 2. Numerous teachers and staff have stepped forward and said they would carry concealed firearms in the Cody Schools if the board accepted their contract. 3. Trainers in the Cody area - former federal law enforcement agents - have stated to the Cody School Board that they would train the "first generation" of the armed security member for FREE. A Cody indoor range owner has volunteered his range for FREE training exercises and will sell any of the trainees a handgun. 4. The Park County Sheriff stated that Meeteetse is working towards armed security and he has spent quite a bit of time working with them. 5. As for this school board member, favorable comments are running 400 to 1 FOR. The Cody School Board encourages anyone in the district to write or call - all contact information is on the Cody Schools website. As for this school board member: I will answer all correspondence. - Scott T. Weber

  • posted by Bill Tallen

    October 05, 2017 8:09 pm

    Jeff Demoney, for starters, there's this. The states that currently allow school employees with concealed carry permits to carry firearms in the schools with the approval of their school board/administration include California, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Idaho, South Dakota, Georgia, Missouri, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Ohio, Washington, and (as of our last legislative session) Wyoming. Some of these states have done so for a very long time, while many of those laws were passed in 2013 after the Sandy Hook tragedy, giving those states 4 years' experience with armed staff in their schools. Discovering exactly which school districts do approve armed staff members, and which schools have armed staff or citizens present and in what numbers would require several paid research assistants, a travel budget, and a way to persuade districts to share information that (if Wyoming law is representative) they are required or prefer to keep confidential. Then of course there are the states that allow concealed carry in the schools by CCW permittees who are not school employees, mostly without permission or even notification of the administration. These include Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah. I have found no reports of any school shooting in any school in any of these states that included mention of legally armed staff members on premises. Prevention is a negative, and when an event does not occur, it cannot be proven why. Correlation is not causation, but it can be persuasive: guns in school = no shootings in school. However, I am also not aware of any cases of armed teachers or principals "snapping" and shooting anyone, or of guns being taken from them, or any of the other dire events that skeptics predict will happen. Just like the predictions of Wild West mayhem resulting from "shall-issue" concealed carry permits, these fears appear to be baseless.

  • posted by Scott T. Weber

    October 05, 2017 4:47 pm

    I don't know who "Michelle" is, but she needs to do her homework. Here are the facts: Scott Weber has been a resident in Wyoming for nearly 20 years. Scott Weber graduated from the University of Wyoming. Scott Weber is a member of the Cody School who collectively put this school security issue on the agenda several months after HB 194 was passed by the Wyoming Legislature. Scott Weber does not offer advanced firearms/combat training. Scott Weber does not have a range on which the school trainees would use. Scott Weber will not be selling any firearms to the school trainees - that is left to the trainer and they will be operating out of a local Cody indoor range that sells firearms. I wish people would get their facts straight instead of going off "half-cocked" (no pun intended).

  • posted by Bill Tallen

    October 05, 2017 4:34 pm

    Bill Stanley, I've offered to provide the 24(+) hours of initial training free for Park6 staff; plus the first annual refresher training, through my company, Distributed Security, Inc. There's no hook; the district might prefer to pay $1500-2000 pet person elsewhere, either initially or in the future, and that would be fine. BTW, I agree on psych evals; I had them annually as a federal agent, and most police agencies do the same.

  • posted by Jeff Demoney

    October 05, 2017 4:26 pm

    Sir, can you please advise me as to the location of the large body of evidence on "discreetly armed, vetted, trained personnel on scene" and their success preventing school shootings?

  • posted by Bill Tallen

    October 05, 2017 3:28 pm

    When Trustee Keegan raised his concern about "teaching children to solve problems with a gun" in a recent email, I pointed out to him that a 9-1-1 call from an active shooter event is a plea for a whole lot of people to come solve the problem with guns. Perhaps he is uncomfortable with that, and would rather leave a killer unopposed entirely, rather than saving lives with counterposed violence? The fact is that mass shootings in schools are over in a matter of minutes, almost always before police are able to arrive and interrupt them. As Cody PD Chief Baker told the Park 6 board last month, "When seconds count, we [police] are minutes away." Only discreetly armed, vetted, trained personnel on scene are able to respond in the first critical moments. The alternative is horrific and indefensible. If you haven't studied the case histories of school shootings, you should, before you form an opinion on this issue.

  • posted by Bill Stanley

    October 05, 2017 2:37 pm

    So the training to certify is free? Once the hook is set, how much is recertification? If the teacher doesn't recertify will there be oversight through a standards and testing committee? As for psych evals, that is a prudent question. Is a teacher or staff member psychologically sound to take someone's life? Or will they freeze up, and potentially provide another weapon for a perpetrator?

  • posted by Michelle

    October 05, 2017 9:22 am

    Well, what I find interesting is Scott Weber, a man who has no children, lived in Wyoming in a very short amount of time ( 3 years), pushing for guns in school, this was his idea. And, he just happens to be a gun shop owner. Complete conflict of interest.
    https://www.csgv.org/in-wake-of-school-massacre-ohio-gunrunner-seeks-profit-over-penance/

Leave a comment

All comments are initially screened to avoid spam and profanity, and your comment may take some time to appear on the site. The Powell Tribune reserves the right to not publish inappropriate comments.
Fields marked (*) are required.

Subscribe

Get all the latest Powell news by subscribing to the Powell Tribune today!

Click here to find out more!

E-Edition

Our paper can be delivered right to your e-mail inbox with a subscription to the Powell Tribune!

Find out more here!

Stay Connected

Keep up with Powell news by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.

Go to top