Six Campbell Co. school staff to get firearms training

By: 
Kathy Brown Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange

GILLETTE — Campbell County School District trustees took another step in their conversation about school safety Tuesday when two of Gillette’s top law enforcement officers spoke about arming staff.
Gillette Police Chief Jim Hloucal and Campbell County Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds spoke to trustees about the Wyoming law that allows school employees to carry concealed weapons during school hours.
Six Campbell County employees will undergo 40 hours of training in June as part of the conversation about what the training requirements would look like, said Kirby Eisenhauer, associate superintendent for instructional support.
The Sheriff’s Office and Police Department offered to pay for the training, Hloucal said.
At the same time, chairwoman Anne Ochs suggested that Optional 1 Percent Sales Tax money might be a way to add more school resource officers to the school district.
The Police Department has three full-time school resource officers, one at each high school and one covering the junior highs, Hloucal said. Other police can respond to schools for calls on issues.
The sheriff’s office has three full-time DARE officers employed, mostly as elementary school instructors, and three part-time officers. They are all primarily instructors in the classroom, Reynolds said.
“This is a fairly complex and serious issue when you see what has developed (across the nation),” Hloucal said, adding the community also includes 30,000 residents who are likely to see more problems and report them to help prevent school violence and the loss of young lives.
Summer training
As part of the summer training, Hloucal said his hope is that the six are either initially against or for teachers carrying guns in schools “mostly to show what comfort level people have” after training.
It will further the conversation on the pros and cons of the issue, he said.
Superintendent Boyd Brown said local law enforcement has gone beyond an offer to provide training. He said some staff have been selected to undergo training, although he wouldn’t talk about the process of how they were selected or when the training would happen.
He said he didn’t know if they had different views for or against arming school employees and he doesn’t want to pressure those who would be trained by answering those questions.
Hloucal said the training will be specific to what could happen with a shooter in a school, not general police training.
“It’s a lot different when you’re asking people to do what police do,” he said. “We’re not asking them to intervene and make arrests. This is specific to one type of call.”
Optional 1 Percent Sales Tax
Ochs favored employing more school resources officers at the junior high and elementary school levels in Gillette.
“I wonder if this would not be a good use of the Optional 1 Percent,” she said. “I don’t think there would be one person in the community against it if it would provide more school resources officers.”
Reynolds and Hloucal said the 1 Percent money is not guaranteed funding. Instead, it has to be approved by Campbell County voters every four years.
Ochs said the state Legislature determined a direction school districts could go for more safety in schools, “but there was no funding with that.”
Hloucal estimated the salary and benefits for a new officer — without a police car or equipment and gear included — would range from $85,000 to $90,000 per year.
He also estimated that three or four armed school staff — with at least one of them in the school all the time — would cost far less than that.
“Certainly, there’s no price on the safety of our kids,” Trustee Lisa Durgin said, adding it would be good to have a conversation about the issue.
“I think the conversation would be good,” Ochs said. “And it would be good for all of us as a community to have that conversation.
“I’ve noticed in the last difficult situations that our country has found itself in that school resource officers have played a big part in saving lives. And that’s really been the whole outlook in Campbell County is to save lives.”
Trustee Toni Bell said putting a gun in a teacher’s hands for safety would work for after a shooter is already in a school. She would like to look at other preventative measures.
“We’ve intervened in situations where I think personally that things have gone very, very well,” Hloucal said.
That’s because of reports from parents, other students and teachers who chose not to ignore what they’ve seen or heard.
“So our preventive measures have worked so far very well,” he said. “There is always a deterrent effect when somebody goes into a situation and they don’t know who else in there may be carrying.
“As we’ve seen in most of these critical incidents, as soon as someone engages a shooter, the sooner that situation stops. And we’ve seen it across the country where even (unarmed) school staff have tackled an individual and stopped further loss of life.”
Trustee David Foreman said he worked with about five school resource officers while principal at Twin Spruce Junior High. He’s also had discussions with them about training and what happens in shooting situations.
“And the question I asked is if you were going to get into a firefight with somebody and, even if you’re an expert marksman, you’re probably not going to be in that situation because your adrenaline is pumping and things could get out of hand,” he said. “Somebody that doesn’t have a lot of training, I would wonder. I would have concerns.”
The next step
Ochs said the school board would like to pursue what direction it should go next. She suggested school trustees and officials meet with city and county elected officials sometime in July.
“I really think we should start with other elected boards in the community. This is to be a community plan,” she said.
Ochs suggested “a very focused meeting on what we need and what our resources are. It looks like sometime in July we could invite the city and county to meet together and we’ll get this ball rolling.”
At the same time, she said such a meeting would be open to the public and she wanted to “let the public know this will be entirely transparent.”
Once a plan is developed, Ochs said the community will be invited to comment on the proposal in public meetings.

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