Amid National School Shootings, NC Legislators Discuss If Arming Teachers is Best Response

Jan 28, 2018

A state legislative committee that oversees emergency management heard an update Thursday on school safety measures. The committee's chair opened the meeting with a reflection on recent school shootings in other states.

"If you regularly read the paper, or watch the TV or listen to the radio, or pick up a telephone, too many times we're seeing schools victimized across our nation," began Representative John Faircloth. Shootings at schools outside Dallas and in rural Kentucky made headlines last week.

The legislative committee met to hear how schools and colleges across North Carolina are implementing a variety of safety measures enacted in a 2013 law.

John Dorman of the Department of Public Safety, Ben Matthews of the Department of Public Instruction and Elizabeth Grovenstein of the North Carolina Community College System outlined ways that state agencies, public schools and colleges are complying with that law to improve student safety:

  • Traditional K-12 public schools hold annual active shooter drills. All school districts and some charter schools have also been trained in critical response.
  • The state has put in place a database of floor plans of schools that first responders can access from a phone app to act more quickly on site of an emergency. The system is poised to expand to include community colleges and UNC-system schools.
  • A software application is under developmont that allows teachers to trip an alarm on a lanyard or phone to submit real time information about whether they are in danger.
  • Currently about 1,000 school resource officers are active in schools across the state, with 210 school resource officers added in recent years with a federal grant.
  • All traditional public schools have panic buttons with a direct line from administrative offices to local law enforcement.
  • The Department of Public Instruction is piloting an anonymous tip line application at some schools and reports that the service has prevented one potential shooting incident.

But Representative Larry Pittman and others said those measures don't go far enough. Pittman said he would like to see every school resource officer armed, and for teachers to be allowed to carry concealed guns.

"If I was the kind of person to go shoot up a school, that resource officer is the first person I'd take out," said Pittman. "And then who's left to defend anybody who's there until the police get there? And by that point you've got a lot of people dead."

Pittman suggested that teachers with conceal carry permits be able to carry guns on school and college campuses. State law currently prohibits concealed carry on all school premises.

"At least the teachers, at least the professors, who are properly trained and permitted should be able to do that," Pittman said.

Pittman said he has in the past introduced legislation to that effect.

Fellow Republican Senator Ronald Rabin, an army veteran, cautioned against allowing teachers to wield guns in chaotic situations when they don't have the same level of training as police. 

"I'll guarantee you, if I was trying to hit Senator Tart over there, in chaos, it would go over there and hit the clock," Rabin said, "Just think about that before you come down this road."