More Georgia schools may authorize armed teachers by month’s end

Jefferson City School District is considering arming teachers with guns.

By the end of the month, there may be three more Georgia school districts that will let school staff members bring weapons to school.

Last month, Laurens County schools voted to train teacher volunteers to carry guns on campus. Others are considering it, and at least three Georgia school systems are scheduled to vote on a similar step this month, while others decided against arming teachers before it came to the voting stage.

Last week, the Cherokee County school board heard a report from its Ad Hoc Safety and Security Committee, which was established after the Sandy Hook school shooting. Consisting of the Cherokee County sheriff, chief marshal, city chiefs of police, parents, principals and school district leaders, the committee reviewed many options, including arming teachers. It recommended several changes, but arming teachers wasn't one.

The next step will be Superintendent Brian Hightower’s presentation of his recommended annual budget at the May 17 board meeting. The budget will include an increase in safety and security funding for next school year to begin implementing the committee’s recommendations, broken down into seven categories: facilities, personnel, operations, training, communications, partnerships and resources.

“Some of the recommendations don’t require any expense, while some may take us several years to fully implement, but we’re committed to meeting the goals of every one,” Hightower said in a letter to parents. “We’re going to do an ever better job securing our facilities, protecting them with POST-certified and armed law enforcement officers, training our employees and students on emergency response, and making sure every student knows to ‘see something, say something’ whether it’s a danger to their school or a classmate crying out for help.

Several Georgia school systems will vote this month on whether to allow teachers to carry guns on campus. AJC file photo
Several Georgia school systems will vote this month on whether to allow teachers to carry guns on campus. AJC file photo

Like Cherokee, Bleckley County schools has formed a committee to look at safety improvements. A list of several dozen recommendations was presented to the board last month. “A way for teachers to defend themselves in their classrooms” was No. 6 on the list. Other suggestions included bulletproof glass in the office and on doors; fencing; panic buttons on buses, ID badges for teachers, a full-time resource officer, changing car-rider procedures, drills, and other changes in procedure or technology.

Bleckley’s school board meets again on May 15.

Jefferson County Schools is planning to vote May 10 on a school gun policy. School officials met Sunday with parents who were concerned that the plan is too vague.

“It is really terrifying to think about the fact that I could be in a classroom with a teacher that just has a gun somewhere,” student Ella Phillips told Channel 2 Action News.

“I’ve spent many hours on many days meeting with representatives from the group. I haven’t acquiesced to all of their demands but I’ve explained my views and the reasoning behind them,” responded Jefferson Superintendent Molly Howard.

Fannin County schools will also vote on a measure to allow teachers to carry guns on May 10.

In a letter last month to parents, Superintendent Michael Gwatney appeared to endorse the policy.

“Safety is the top priority,” he wrote. “We do not wait for emergency professionals but instead take immediate action during fires, injuries, and heart attacks; likewise, we should never have to wait for outside help to begin a swift and appropriate response to an attack on our school community.”

Georgia school districts to vote on arming teachers

Fannin County — May 10

Jefferson County — May 10

Bleckley County — May 15

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