Missouri public school districts could be required to have at least one armed officer in every building during normal school hours. The House Elementary and Secondary Education committee is considering the bill sponsored by State Representative Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon. It would also have retired police officers, educators, military members or veterans, or volunteers serve in the paid or unpaid roles. Under the proposed mandate, the individuals would have to complete training prior to starting.
“I don’t think every Tom, Dick and Harry should be tasked with looking out for the kids, making sure certain situations don’t arise, looking out for the safety of the entire staff. I think that you need somebody who’s armed and trained in these situations,” says Schroer.
During a public hearing, Representative Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, says he backs the measure.
“I think we should try and do everything we can to make sure our children are as safe as possible,” says Basye.
Representative Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, a lifelong educator, says she wants the bill to go a step further.
“Some of the most heated times that we’ve had, where I was truly concerned about behavior or somebody being violent was at ball games, when you have those extracurricular kinds of times,” she says.
The legislation would put an administrator’s or employee’s job in jeopardy if they fail to ensure that an armed officer is on duty.
“I don’t see why any school district, even though we have 60% of them so far that have RSOs, why would they go the extra mile to ensure the safety of their children if they’re not required to and there were penalties if they didn’t do so,” says Schroer.
Otto Fagin, speaking on behalf of the Missouri National Education Association, says local school boards should decide about armed resource officers – not the state.
“We have concerns that when you create this mandate, but there’s no funding attached with it, which may be an Article 10 violation, that creates a pressure for the school districts,” says Fagin. “Do we cut staff in other areas so that we can have school resource officers? The governor’s safety task force – they talk about the best solutions designed through local governance and that one size doesn’t fit all and we agree with that very strongly. That’s why we have concerns about a bill that mandates this. We would probably have no objection whatsoever if the state were wanting to invest in supporting school districts having more access to resource officers in every school.”
Moms Demand Action member Cathy Gilbert of St. Louis County raised other concerns.
“Most school violence is not the mass shootings that we see at Parkland or Sandy Hook. Most of those incidents – 78% – are guns brought to school by students from home,” says Gilbert. So, we need to ensure that parents are aware that safe storage is a critical factor in keeping their children safe.”
The state has 518 public school districts and about 2,400 school buildings.
The committee has not yet voted on House Bill 1961.
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