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Bullets or books?

Alyssa Cain and Jonathon Page

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The world is becoming more dangerous, and some politicians around the U.S. are taking extreme measures they claim will keep schools safe. Last May, Noblesville became a member of an unfortunate category: communities that have been affected by gun violence. As a result, many politicians, including Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas, have authored bills in statehouses around the country that would allow teachers and staff members, after going through a voluntary 40-hour training program, access to a firearm during the school day. After the Noblesville West Middle School shooting, Lucas and other Indiana politicians cited that event as one reason for several possible bills, including one, HB 1253, that could divert funding from other school accounts to set up firearms training programs for teachers.

Noblesville High School is currently staffed with two armed resource officers. One of those officers, Sergeant Andrew Reiss, believes that having officers assigned to each building is the best practice to defend against threats in the school.

“The training that I had to go through in order to become proficient and to understand the rules of deadly force and proper engagement and things like that go well beyond just learning to be able to be accurate with a handgun,” Reiss said.

Reiss says the 40-hour training that teachers and staff members would have to take may not be enough. He points out that police officers in Noblesville spend many more hours each year to continue their firearm education.

“Taking a teacher who knows nothing about weapons or very little about weapons and trying to train them to the point where they would be proficient and have an understanding that we have in law enforcement to be able to use those skills, I think is a monumental task,” Reiss said.

Many teachers at Noblesville High School say they don’t feel comfortable going through this type of training or carrying firearms. Eric Gundersen, an NHS history teacher, is concerned about the risks this bill proposes.

“What if a teacher does something stupid with that gun? Whether it’s pointing a gun at a student, a parent, or a fellow co-worker they’re angry with. We aren’t trained enough to be able to handle all that,” Gundersen said.

Dave Ferris, a math teacher at NHS, is a gun owner and is another teacher who questions how effective this approach will be.

“I do not think there are any foolproof measures that will completely prevent someone from harming others in a school, if that is their intent,” Ferris said. “Hopefully we can make it as difficult as possible by implementing common-sense systems that provide an increased measure of safety.”

Beth Niedermeyer, Noblesville Schools Superintendent, would be the one of the people who would make the decision on whether Noblesville would arm teachers.

“Our focus is always on what we believe is best for students. Sometimes the legislators take our input as education leaders into account when making decisions and sometimes they do not,” Niedermeyer said.

The debate likely won’t end anytime soon. When it comes to protecting schools and making sure students and staff are safe, Ferris points out there won’t be an easy solution that will solve the issue.

“Everyone wants to fix the problem,” Ferris said, “but we can also do a lot of damage with quick decisions that are not well-conceived.”

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Bullets or books?