Firearms are expensive. Ammo is expensive. Training is expensive. Who should be financially responsible for arming teachers? The financial aspect of arming teachers will vary from private to public schools, and from district to district. Private schools may need to put more financial responsibility on teachers while public schools may be able to find a larger budget for arming teachers.
Teachers need to provide the weapon and a holster (if necessary) that is pre-approved by the district. Any additional customizations such as lights or optics should be covered by the teacher if it is not prohibited by the district. If policy later changes to require certain accessories the district should consider partially covering the cost of the additional gear.
Conclusion on Finances
If arming teachers is a district decision, they need to be willing to cover some of the expenses. Owning and maintaining a firearm is expensive, but it is reasonable to expect armed teachers to take responsibility of that. If teachers are carrying in school, they are more than likely conceal carrying outside of school as well. Training is expensive, but must be mandatory for the armed teacher. It is reasonable to expect the district to cover some of the associated cost of training such as tuition or ammunition.
Who is liable when teachers are armed in the school? Upon entering the school, armed teachers are no longer the average conceal carrier. They are the designated first responders in a crisis, but they are not law enforcement, so how should we handle legal liability? First we need to further define our circumstances.
Accessed by unauthorized person
A student got access to your gun. A gun that was supposed to be either securely and discretely locked in a safe, or holstered on your person. Who should be liable?
In this scenario, the teacher will likely be the one liable. The teacher is solely responsible for ensuring the security of their firearm whether on their person, or in the approved classroom safe. If a student, another teacher, or the active shooter gains access to the firearm, the armed teacher should be liable.
There are a few exceptions to consider here. One example is a safe which is breached or is defective, allowing unauthorized access. Another could be a teacher who is disarmed by an attacker. In these situations, the armed teacher is not directly at fault, and likely would not be directly liable.
A Teacher Draws their Firearm
If the teacher draws their firearm in an unapproved setting or situation, the armed teacher should be liable.
The district has already set policy in place clearly addressing when it is okay to draw their weapon. If the firearm is drawn at any other time, the teacher is likely in the wrong. This could result in expulsion from the armed teacher program, or termination from their position pending district policy. I think the teacher must be liable.
If a Teacher’s Concealed Weapon Prints, or is Exposed
What if the weapon is visible through the clothing, or is exposed? Policy should include that conceal carrying means the weapon is hidden so that students and other teachers are unaware of the nearby firearm.
If this happens, again I would say that the armed teacher is liable for any possible legal issues. District policy should include what the consequence is for this offence. At a minimum, a strike and possible expulsion from the armed teacher program. Firearm exposure significantly impacts the security of the program, and should not be taken lightly.
Bystanders are Struck by Teacher Gunfire
What if the intended target is missed and another teacher, or a student is struck?
A district decision was made to allow armed teachers in their schools. Districts have worked alongside law enforcement to ensure adequate training is provided to these teachers, and to ensure that they can meet a minimum standard. My opinion is that the district is legally liable in this situation, at least partially. A stray bullet hitting another student or teacher should not automatically result in termination for the teacher in an active shooter situation. At a minimum, districts should model their response to what local law enforcement offers their officers in similar situations.
Armed Teachers Fail to Act
The standard can be met, training has been provided, but in the moment the armed teacher does nothing. Should they be held liable for any loss of life?
I don’t think the teacher, nor is the district liable. You never know how you are going to respond in a stressful situation. You cannot guarantee that you will be able to perform and stop the threat. Ultimately, the teacher’s job is not to protect life, it is to teach. Armed teachers are not the average conceal carrier, but like the conceal carrier they are not, and should not, be legally required to act. At a minimum, I would consult local law enforcement’s legal team to mirror what is provided their officers.
The teacher is liable. Their weapon was fired in an inappropriate setting.
Consequences for this should be pre-decided. While the armed teacher is responsible for every bullet that comes out of their gun, they are even more responsible for those that come out when they didn’t want to. Even if there is no loss of life or bodily harm, this is not acceptable.
Teachers Being Sued
In the event an armed teacher is being sued, I would encourage the district to provide legal counsel and cover the associated costs. If your teachers have followed protocol, and completed their training, the school is responsible for keeping them safe legally. Without saying, if the armed teacher broke protocol, they should be subject to their own legal fees.
Conclusion on Liability
Go over any and every possible scenario and determine who is liable before taking applications for the armed teachers. Consult the district legal team, discuss with local law enforcement’s legal team. Have as much information as possible to provide to teachers to help them determine if they feel comfortable arming themselves at school.
Who to Arm and How?
Who do we arm and how do we go about doing it? Schools are filled with personnel other than just teachers. Paraprofessionals, custodians, lunch workers, administrators, counselors, and others are in every classroom and hallway. Do we provide them with the opportunity to be armed as well?
Who Do We Arm?
Considering the variety of staff within schools, we need to outline who is eligible for these programs. Do we only arm the teachers, or do we offer to arm any interested personnel? I believe if the decision is made to arm teachers, then any qualified staff should be under consideration. Every human being deserves the right to defend themselves, with lethal force if necessary. The lunch lady has the same potential to stop a threat as a teacher, and her life is worth just as much.
Under no circumstances should being armed be compulsory. We should not hire for “armed” positions. In anticipation for the next school year, remind teachers that they could join the armed teacher program. I would suggest opening for applications in early April, and start interviewing late May/early June so training can begin in July and August. This gives ample time for staff to make preparations.
How do We Select Candidates?
We have interested teachers, paras, lunch ladies, and custodians. Should all of them be accepted into the program? If not, how do we select candidates?
Not every interested party is going to be a good candidate. There will be interested personnel who cannot meet the standard. Personnel who are not mentally equipped to stop an active shooter in their classroom. An application and interview process should help determine who qualifies and would be a good candidate.
Suggested interview and hiring process:
- Have interested personnel fill out an application to the program
- Application is received by the school principal and sent to the armed teacher department
- Human Resources and a designated board performs interviews
- Shooting Standard
- Take board-selected candidates to the range, ensuring they can meet established standards
- Equipment Checks
- Ensure candidate's equipment meets requirements set by the district
- Final Decisions
- Accept or deny candidates based upon interviews, recommendations, and performance on the range
- Candidates sign acknowledgement of procedures and protocols
Conclusion on Who and How
This needs to be an optional position to those who are interested and can meet the requirements. Any person within the school should be allowed to apply, not just classroom teachers. Final applicant selection should be discussed by a board. The decision board should include HR, the superintendent of schools, and school resource officer(s) and/or a supervisor from local law enforcement.
Conclusion on Finances and Liability of Armed Teachers
The concept of arming teachers is highly complex. There are so many considerations, policy, and laws to address before pulling the trigger. Pun intended. I cannot agree that all teachers should be armed, nor do I believe it is the best choice for every school. I support parents, students, teachers, and school administrators taking the time to do more research on this subject. Form educated opinions, and then start talking to your school boards and state representatives. Support your teachers, paraprofessionals, school nurses, therapists, counselors, principals, and custodians. The 2020/2021 school year is here!