Guns in schools get city focus
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Jan 08, 2013 | 1746 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Board of Education
Cleveland Police Chief Wes Snyder talks to the Cleveland Board of Education Monday evening about whether or not teachers should be allowed to carry concealed guns. Snyder suggested an extensive study before making a decision. Banner photos, Delaney Walker
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Cleveland Board of Education members Monday evening requested the advice of Police Chief Wes Snyder over whether or not teachers should be allowed to carry concealed guns.

“If it is something you want to entertain, I would suggest extensive, extensive studying of the situation,” Snyder said. “... I do not think a decision can be made off of one press conference. I think you need to take a really good look at research. You are educators, you know that.

“Somewhere in there is a middle ground ... I would not make any serious knee-jerk decisions until you have a chance to look at your options.”

State Rep. Eric Watson revealed Monday his proposed legislation to allow certain school personnel to carry concealed weapons in schools. School board officials asked Snyder a series of questions and shared their personal opinions. All board members stated their preference for school resource officers over teachers packing heat.

There are currently eight SROs in the city school system with one being shared by E.L. Ross and Yates Primary. According to Snyder, the officers’ extensive training includes everything from crisis intervention to hostage negotiations and firearms training courses. All SROs have at least five years’ experience with some more than 10, 15 and 20 years. Officers must qualify with their handgun every year in addition to 40 hours of annual in-service.

Richard Shaw, board member, asked what the difference in training would be between a teacher carrying a weapon and an SRO.

“There are probably about 6,000 civilians in Bradley County with their carry permit. They get those by going to a firearms class to receive the civilian certification and training ...,” Snyder said. “There are two days of training between the classroom and on the fire range.”

Snyder said knowing the guidelines for a crisis situation and following them under pressure are two different things.

“On the law enforcement side, I believe every officer knows what they will do [in an emergency],” Snyder said. “I am sure teachers have had the training on what to do in those circumstances, however, who is to say what you will do in a classroom setting? In the heat of the events, a lot of [classroom information] gets really foggy.”

Dawn Robinson, board member, said arming every adult in a school would not necessarily make the building safer.

“It is not just a matter of how to handle a gun. I have people in my family with gun permits. Having someone shoot at them is just out of the realm of how you can train somebody,” Robinson said. “We depend on school administrators and the police force to bring the best ways to protect our schools to the table. I know we need to improve, and we will.”

The SROs at each of the schools have been questioned about their facility’s safety. Each one has written up a list for ways their school can further protect students and staff. Dr. Martin Ringstaff, director of city schools, said 80 percent of the concerns raised by SROs can be addressed by school staff actions.

Steve Morgan, board member, said school safety must remain a top priority.

“After the dust settles [the officers], administration and school board members need to remember six months from now, a year and a half from now,” Morgan said.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland reserved his opinion on the proposal until he has thoroughly read the document. He told the school board he would work on having an SRO in both Yates Primary and E.L. Ross Elementary.

“These school resource officers are not just officers. They bond with the students and they bond with the school,” Rowland said. “How many times have I talked with the boys and girls and heard them call their school resource officers by their first name?”

“They look forward to coming back on Monday and seeing them,” Rowland added. “ ... A lot of the things they ask them, they will not ask their teachers. It is a great resource to have them in our schools.”

Board members thanked Snyder and the SROs for their continuing involvement with the school system.

“I have never felt unsafe,” said Jasmine Martin, school board student representative. “On behalf of the students, I just wanted to say thank you.”

Further discussion will continue at February’s school board meeting.