Richardson: Arm, train school personnel

State representative says tragedies could be prevented; police, school officials disagree

In the wake of Friday's massacre in Connecticut that left 26 dead, a local state representative has called for schools to allow teachers to carry firearms.

Rep. Dennis Richardson, a Central Point Republican, sent an email to three Rogue Valley superintendents saying that gun bans on school property should be overturned.

"The Sandy Hook shootings are another heartbreaking failure of school personnel to ensure the protection of innocent children and adults. Sadly, most of the deaths could have been prevented," Richardson wrote.

"If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide."

When contacted by phone, Richardson added that he believes at least three officials in every school should be trained in the use of firearms.

"We need to ensure that our children are safe, and we can't do that by disarming those who are on the scene," Richardson said.

Richardson pointed to a 1999 school shooting in Mississippi in which an assistant principal held a shooter at bay with a handgun while police arrived. The shooter killed two students and injured seven others before the principal retrieved his handgun from his truck.

Medford schools Superintendant Phil Long, who received the email, but had not read it, said that he was hesitant to comment on Richardson's claims.

"I know (Richardson) is well-intentioned when he says this," Long said. "But we can't jump to conclusions immediately after a tragedy like this occurs."

Long said he believes it's best if teachers focus their efforts on getting children to safety if a shooting occurs. The district trains its staff in lockdown procedures meant to protect children from violence on school grounds.

"We will defer to law enforcement in these situations," Long said. "They are best-trained to handle these things."

In 2009, the Medford School District barred a South Medford High School teacher from bringing her 9mm Glock to school. The teacher later lost a court appeal case, which affirmed the school's decision to keep teachers from packing on campus.

Medford police Chief Tim George firmly disagreed with Richardson's claims, saying that it's not the responsibility of teachers to carry weapons and make deadly force decisions on the job.

"Teachers don't go into teaching to be police officers, they want to teach kids," George said. "In crisis situations there are a lot of very complex things happening all at once and you have to constantly train for deadly force incidents."

George suggested that schools continue their lockdown procedures and to make buildings secure, with checks in place to keep non-authorized people off campus.

"We want teachers to concentrate on keeping kids and themselves safe," George said.

On Friday, Long said the district called attention to its safety procedures in the case of an active shooter. Employees were reminded of where to go and what to do should such a event occur in Medford.

Meanwhile, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department dispatched deputies to county schools to speak with officials and show support for the rural districts.

"We thought it was important to touch base with the schools and let them know that we are prepared to help them at all times," said Andrea Carlson, the sheriff's spokeswoman.

Local police agencies train for shooter scenarios on school campuses, Carlson said.

"We all work together and are on the same page," Carlson said. "If there was a shooting in Jackson County, it would be all hands on deck."

The Columbine massacre in 1999 changed the way police respond to school shootings, George said.

"In that case, they waited until a tactical unit (SWAT team) showed up and then went inside the school," George said. "Now, we respond quickly with the first officers arriving on the scene. You don't wait."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.


Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.
COUPON OF THE WEEK