West Virginia House Votes to Allow Armed Teachers in K-12 Schools

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates in West Virginia voted decisively on Wednesday to permit teachers and other school staff to carry guns in K-12 public schools after undergoing training.

The bill, currently on its way to the Senate, proposes permitting teachers, administrators, and support personnel with concealed carry permits to offer to bring a firearm into school for the purpose of protecting the school in the event of an active shooter situation. Named a “school protection officer,” the staff member would not be given any extra pay for the role.

The West Virginia House approved a controversial school security bill that aims to address concerns about the safety of students in the face of potential threats. The legislation, which now moves to the Senate, has ignited a heated debate among lawmakers, with Democrats largely opposing the measure.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Del. Doug Smith of Mercer County, proposes a program allowing school districts to appoint protection officers from among their staff. These officers would undergo training, including crisis intervention, trauma, and first aid, with an emphasis on addressing potential threats on school campuses.

Supporters argue that not every school system in West Virginia can afford to hire a full-time school resource officer, and this program provides a viable alternative. Republican Del. Dave Foggin of Wood County, a physics teacher, stressed the gravity of the situation, expressing his willingness to use firearms to protect his students if necessary. The bill received approval from the majority of the House, with only Democrats voting against it.

A similar piece of legislation, which passed the Senate last month, allows county education boards to contract with military veterans and retired law enforcement officers for armed security at schools. The fate of both bills remains uncertain, with questions surrounding their chances of passing in each chamber.

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West Virginia School Security Bill

west-virginia-house-votes-allow-armed-teachers-k-12-schools
The Republican-controlled House of Delegates in West Virginia voted decisively on Wednesday to permit teachers and other school staff to carry guns in K-12 public schools after undergoing training.

One point of contention in the House bill is the shift from an optional to a mandatory program, requiring school districts to participate if a staffer wishes to take on the protection officer role and completes the training. Some lawmakers, including Democratic Del. Joey Garcia and Republican Del. Dana Ferrell, expressed concerns about potential threats to local control and urged caution.

The proposed amendment to provide a one-time payment of $25,000 to school protection officers after completing training was voted down. Although no funding has been allocated yet, a fiscal note estimates a cost of $275,000 for training.

The bill mandates that firearms be concealed on campus and that educators have a concealed carry permit. Alternatively, staffers could opt for a stun gun or Taser. It also requires annual behavioral health assessments and training designed by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.

Privacy concerns were addressed in the bill by keeping the identities of staff members approved to carry firearms confidential. This information would be exempt from public records requests for student safety reasons but shared with the homeland security department and local law enforcement agencies.

Supporters of the bill believe it offers a well-thought-out program with protections, while opponents such as Democratic Del. Kayla Young have concerns about guns in schools and stress the importance of transparency for student safety. As the bill moves to the Senate for additional review, it will determine the outcome.

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