Washington High School: Home of the Blue Jays

The “concept” of pursuing school protection officers should be a decision of local school boards, said Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer.

The Missouri House this week moved to expand who can carry concealed weapons into schools.

The bill, approved Tuesday in an 85-59 vote, would allow school districts to designate any employee as a school protection officer, which would make them eligible to carry concealed firearms into schools.

Currently, only teachers and administrators can be designated as school protection officers.

The measure also would increase training requirements to become a protection officer.

“I firmly believe that teachers teach and noncertified staff support instruction and the operations of the schools,” VanLeer told The Missourian. “To take on the responsibility of true protection on top of the demands already on school staff is concerning.”

VanLeer said she would prefer hiring law enforcement professionals instead.

She noted the district has numerous meetings regarding safety with county law enforcement and city police in the district’s boundaries.

“We are getting more and more presence from both,” she said. “We also desire the hiring of a third SRO (school resource officer) for the school district.”

VanLeer said the district’s safety committees and the school board will continue to discuss safety enhancements on an ongoing basis.

“It will remain the highest priority,” she said.

Proponents of the bill say it could improve safety in the event of a school shooting, especially in isolated schools. Opponents say it could lead to unqualified people being armed around children.

The bill now heads to the Senate.