SHADY COVE — Parents in the Eagle Point School District will be asked to participate in a survey on the topic of school safety, including their opinions on whether or not teachers should be armed on campus.
The questionnaire will go out in preparation for the district's first community forum meeting, tentatively slated for late November or early December, said Allen Barber, the district's human resources director and committee facilitator.
Barber and the committee members will spend the next week or so determining what questions to ask, how to frame them and by what method they will be offered to parents.
At this third meeting of the district's Weapons Safety Committee, held Tuesday at Shady Cove School, the members got a rundown on the state-of-the-art security system installed at the elementary school.
Sgt. Rick Kennedy with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office demonstrated the system's lockdown capabilities, and explained some of his department's monitoring and response capabilities in the event of an armed attack.
Doors where locked, lights were signaled and Kennedy discussed the realities of response time, and said while the system was a valuable tool for law enforcement and staff, teachers would have to make some of their own decisions regarding their students' safety.
"Everybody has to make their best choices," Kennedy said. "I can do the best I can do."
Current policy instructs staff to respond to threats of harm by locking doors, hiding and protecting themselves, Barber said.
Some believe that is not proactive enough. Teachers need to be prepared to respond proactively, said Nita Lundberg, a committee member, parent and district volunteer.
"I expect my children to come home alive," Lundberg said. "I expect you to take extreme measures."
Barber said it is difficult to accept "a cultural shift" that has changed since Columbine, Sandy Hook and other shootings.
"Schools used to be safe," Barber said. "Close the doors and hide is not enough."
Barber showed a short training film that demonstrated what may become part of training for the district's 450 staff members. The film detailed options in the event of an armed attack that ranged from fleeing in a zigzag pattern to how to barricade a room to engaging with the gunman. Throwing books, backpacks, and other items at the shooter's head.
Eagle Point resident Terry Marks, a former police sergeant from La Mesa, Calif., has opposed arming staff members. However, Marks said if teachers are going to be asked to physically protect students, they would need to receive considerable training.
"You don't get new ideas in a crisis," Marks 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, Barber informed the committee.
The district's staff handbook currently prohibits employees from bringing firearms, ammunitions, hunting or combat knives, explosives, incendiary devices or other weapons onto district premise.
Greg Mead, a fire arms safety expert and fellow committee member, is in favor of allowing teachers to be armed. Mead handed out a three-page pro/con list detailing his thoughts on different options for that to occur.
Mead voiced skepticism regarding the usefulness of the public forum. The committee has diverse but "informed opinions" on the various safety issues, particularly on whether or not to arm staff, he said.
He hopes the survey will include a statement that will explain what the committee has discussed so the forum can stay focused on key safety issues.
Otherwise, Mead said, "it's going to turn into a pro gun/anti-gun thing."
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify Greg Mead's position.