Such training programs could minimize risks, says Bill Page, a senior risk consultant for the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, a public-entity self-insurance pool that covers municipal governments across the state. Indiscriminately allowing all teachers to carry guns could create problems as well as prevent them. However, “if you selectively arm people who are capable of diffusing the situation before police get there, that would be positive,” Page says. His research has led him to “very, very qualified” support of arming trained school workers.
Taking point: Steve Scoville, principal of Delton’s Kellogg Elementary School
Under Pierce’s plan, the school district would make the ultimate determination about whether to allow its employees to bear arms on campus. And those who might carry weapons would be trained and prepared. That emphasis on skill and education has motivated many parents in the region to support the program, says Steve Scoville, principal of Delton’s Kellogg Elementary School and a participant in the course.
“Teachers [wouldn’t be] walking around with a gun strapped to their hip,” Scoville says. “Having trained people in each building, capable of response if something terrible happened, is way better than waiting around, hiding under our desks. The incidents when we’ve had the shootings in schools, the criminal didn’t adhere to the weapons ban.”
Pierce’s approach is also cheap. By partnering with the school district and the community, he’s gained free access to libraries, schools, and other venues for training drills. An adjunct instructor at Kellogg Community College’s police academy in Battle Creek, Mich., Pierce teaches the reserve-officer program himself, inviting cops, prosecutors, and other experts to help out. He uses teaching equipment the police department already owns. And reserve officers are volunteers, not paid employees. All in all, the reserve-officer-training program costs less than $100 per participant, Pierce says, adding that even cash-strapped cities and districts could use this approach. Barry County waives the registration fee altogether for school employees.
Most important, arming teachers as reserve officers would ensure rapid response in an emergency. And in school shootings, response times matter. At Columbine, law enforcement remained outside the school for three hours before reaching the wounded. At Sandy Hook, there was a 20-minute delay. At Virginia Tech, it took less than ten minutes, but the perpetrator was quicker still. Two of the SWAT-team members who searched Columbine the day of the shooting, Sargeant. A. J. DeAndrea and now-retired Sheriff’s Sargeant Grant Whitus, currently train respondents to assume that in a mass shooting, a person dies every 15 seconds.
Pierce says having an armed reserve officer on campus ensures that help is already on the scene if it’s needed.
“If the school is in lockdown, where is the help?” Pierce asks. “It might be a long way away, so you have to create a firewall, a way to help protect those children until help arrives.” Furthermore, he says, the very idea of teachers doubling as reserve officers might deter violence.