Fresno, California's Kingsburg Joint Union High School District has announced that teachers in the district will now be allowed to carry guns on campus.
On Monday, the school board unanimously approved a policy that would allow as many as five district employees chosen by the superintendent to carry a concealed firearm on school property.
If selected, the employee will be required to attend a training program arranged by Superintendent Randy Morris. Other components that will be considered are disciplinary records, evaluations, and conduct at school.
Monday's school board meeting was uneventful, but critics are calling the policy "extreme," especially on a campus that is currently deemed low-risk. The 1,200 students at the high school have no fence surrounding the school property, no police resource officer on campus, and students are allowed to leave the campus for lunch every day.
Mary Lou Swenning, a grandmother, said the new move is akin to the "Wild West."
"Now we're going to add something else for teachers to think about? Shooting people, really?" she said. "That's a difficult thing for a police officer to do who's been trained to do this, and you have a split second to decide if you should kill this person or not. I wouldn't want that responsibility, and I wouldn't want it for our teachers."
Another parent says her daughter is uneasy about not knowing which teachers will be in possession of a gun. The mother said that her daughter is surely not the only student who feels this way.
Morris pointed out that this measure is not a response to a threat, but added that the board was attempting to be proactive. The gun policy was created with the assistance of Kingsburg Police Chief Neil Dadian, who referred to the Newtown massacre in 2012 as an example of why school safety could be improved with a line of defense.
He noted that if any of the teachers had been armed, some of the deaths would have been prevented. He also referenced Folsom Cordova Unified District, which is east of Sacramento, where select employees have had access to guns on campus for several years.
Even though the school board voted unanimously to allow the firearms policy, some parents are having a difficult time accepting the new protocol, says KFSN-TV's Christina Fan.
Only the superintendent would know who was carrying a weapon, and the employees chosen would be required to have a Concealed Carry Weapon Permit. Morris said that the district will continue to look into other safety measures to protect students, but he believed having armed teachers is a good first step toward saving students' lives in the event of an emergency.
Kingsburg is only the second district in California to allow some staff to carry concealed firearms. And once the Concealed Carry Weapon Permit holder signs the application, he or she has accepted the responsibility of shooting the gun if it becomes necessary.
School board members suggested the addition of the new procedures after the San Bernardino mass shooting incident in December, along with a spate of other horrific shootings across the nation.
But Jessica Peres of KFSN-TV reports that ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi said asking staff members to take on such a responsibility, without the specialized training that police officers obtain, is a dangerous idea.
"You can legally carry a gun. But how you deal with a crisis situation are two different things, and then what's the responsibility of a school district on what a teacher, or administrator, does with that firearm."