The Duncan Banner

March 7, 2013

Superintendents discuss House bill that could allow teachers to carry handguns

Derrick Miller
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN —  

Student safety is one of the main objectives for superintendents throughout Stephens County.
And a legislative bill regarding an increase in school safety by permitting authorized school personnel to carry handguns on school property is among the bills progressing through the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 1062 was most recently approved by the Public Safety Committee Feb. 28.
According to the Oklahoma Legislation website, HB 1062 will allow teachers and administrators who have completed a basic police course academy for reserve deputies would be allowed, if authorized by the board of education, to carry a handgun into the school. The school board would be responsible for training, and the training would occur during the summer.
The bill was first read Feb. 4, and 10 days later, the bill was pulled from the calendar and returned to the Public Safety Committee. The committee, which had approved an amended version of the bill by a vote of 8 to 3 on Feb. 6, re-approved HB 1062 with a vote of 13 to 1.
“I have real mixed emotions about it,” Duncan Superintendent Sherry Labyer said. “While I know teachers and administrators are going to protect the kids, I worry about distractions. They’re there to teach.”
Sen. Don Barrington told members of the Leadership Duncan Class XVII on Tuesday during their visit to the state Capitol, that in the rural community schools like in Stephens County, there may not be as much a need for teachers to carry handguns in the classroom, but he understands the concerns many have for the topic.
The Duncan School District does have a contract with the Duncan Police Department, which provides a resource officer for the school district. The officer, Michael Breeze, has an office at the Duncan High School.
“I think it would be better if we had trained police officers,” Labyer said. 
Marlow Superintendent George Coffman said he does have questions about the bill, but can see both sides of the issue. Coffman is a gun owner, who has grown up around guns.
When he was growing up, guns were a part of life, when it came to hunting. He said there are concerns when it comes to asking teachers to take matters into their own hands.
“When you pull a gun and shoot a person, your life changes forever,” Coffman said. “Do I think I have people who could handle themselves? Yes, I do.”
Labyer said there are pros and cons to allowing teachers and administrators to carry handguns.
“We’re about the business of educating students,” Labyer said. “But if it keeps kids safe, I’m for that, too.
“There’s so much training that would be involved. It wouldn’t be a static situation. Officers have to re-certify. More training would have to follow.”
Coffman said Marlow does have teachers who would put themselves before their students. And he acknowledged he does have a fear about school violence. He said he hopes he never has to see that school violence come to Marlow Public Schools in his lifetime.
He said his job description has changed numerous times since he entered the education field. If HB 1062 makes it through both chambers of Oklahoma legislature, he said his job description could change once again.
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kindergarten teacher,” Coffman said. “It’s a very touchy subject. Lots of variables concern me on both sides.”