School district weighs pros, cons of arming staff

Eagle Point's Weapons Safety Committee holds its 3rd public hearing Oct. 8

The Eagle Point School District's Weapons Safety Committee is holding its third public meeting to debate the pros and cons of arming school staffers and other school safety issues.

The meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Shady Cove School, 37 Schoolhouse Lane, Shady Cove. The evening will start with a demonstration of the school's security system.

If you go

What: Eagle Point School District Weapon Safety Committee Meeting

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8

Where: Shady Cove School, 37 Schoolhouse Lane, Shady Cove.

Details: A demonstration of the Shady Cove Security System will begin promptly at 6 p.m. This is the third, and possibly final, committee meeting before the issue is taken to a public forum.

The 15-member group has been tasked by School Board President Scott Grissom to create a district policy on arming teachers. The group is composed of district staff, parents, weapons experts and the city's police chief. The group has twice discussed whether staff members might be armed, what might be the level of training required, and what would be the teachers' responsibilities in the event of an armed attack.

At July's committee meeting, Greg Mead, a firearms instructor, joined in the debate over such issues as whether baseball bats should be used as weapons, where students and teachers should be strategically placed in the event of an attack and steps for tackling an armed intruder.

Mead said teachers should act as shepherds to their sheep. He said they should be ready to take "whatever aggressive action is necessary," including jumping on a shooter's back to "gouge out their eyeballs," Mead said.

Mead repeatedly pressed for allowing teachers to be armed and for ensuring anonymity for those who would be carrying weapons. Mead said identifying armed staff members not only makes them a target for a staff members not only makes them a target for a school shooter bent on mass murder, it also opens them up to possible retaliatory acts against their careers by supervisors who might oppose the notion of guns in schools.

Current policy instructs staff members to respond to threats of harm by locking doors, hiding and protecting themselves, said Allen Barber, the district's human resources director.

The district's staff handbook prohibits employees from bringing firearms, ammunitions, hunting or combat knives, explosives, incendiary devices or other weapons onto district premises, he said.

Previous statements by the district that it had "no policy" regarding allowing weapons on campus, particularly those who may have a concealed handgun permit, were incorrect. Each school's principal reviewed the handbook language with all staff members this year "to ensure that there was no confusion," Barber said Thursday.

Eagle Point resident Terry Marks, a retired police sergeant from La Mesa, Calif., voiced the strongest opposition to the idea of arming district personnel at a meeting in June. Marks did not attend July's meeting, but sent more than 200 pages of information to the committee members, according to Barber.

Marks urged the district to work harder to increase school safety from a logistical point of view. Better fencing and lockdown systems such as the one recently installed in Shady Cove would be a better solution, he said.

Barber discussed the safety improvements that have been made at all the schools in recent years, including adding security cameras, providing single point entry for schools and instituting threat assessment programs for students who exhibit behavioral, academic or psychological concerns.

Superintendent Cynda Rickert said she has "stayed way back" from the discussion. But she praised Barber for leading the panel into discussions that have broadened the scope of improving school safety beyond the initial "tight, narrow focus" of arming teachers.

"He brought really good people to the table," Rickert said. "These have been incredibly interesting and valid discussions. This (discussion) was always so much bigger than guns."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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