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Panel recommends not arming teachers

Members of the Eagle Point Weapons Safety Committee "overwhelmingly" agreed that the school district should not arm staff but could not come to a consensus on whether the district should remove language from its employee handbook that prohibits staff members with a concealed hangun license from carrying at school.

The 20-member committee presented its official recommendation to the school board at a meeting Wednesday evening.

"We do not recommend arming staff members," said Human Resources Director Allen Barber, reading a statement prepared by the committee. "If the board chooses not to follow our recommendation, we ask that our committee be assembled again to develop procedures and processes."

The recommendation was based on research done by committee members over the past 11 months. Barber said the committee was split evenly on whether the district should follow the example of 85 percent of Oregon school districts by "going silent" on the issue of allowing staff members who independently have a concealed handgun license from bringing their weapon on campus.

A few of the committee members voiced their opinions at Wednesday's meeting.

"Personally, regarding the concealed carry of staff members, there's an opportunity there for the district to allow an ultimate last line of defense in a lethal situation," said firearms instructor Greg Mead.

David Sweem, a teacher at Shady Cove Middle School, reminded the board that there is no police force in Shady Cove. He asked the board to remove the block on his Second Amendment rights so that he has the "possibility to make a difference."

"It's not that I would be carrying all the time, but I may have (my gun) in my vehicle on campus," he said.

The committee recommended that the board provide ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training for all staff members this summer, establish a single point of entry at every building by this fall, install buzzed entry systems and silent panic alarms at every school, and invest in "scaled-down" versions of the Nexar Security System to go in every front office.

The full Nexar Security System was installed in Shady Cove Elementary last June and features door locks, panic buttons and cameras that can be accessed by law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

Barber said he believed the district could accomplish these security improvements within the next school year.

The district has already begun upgrading security cameras at all its buildings, developing a social media tip line to be activated later this month, establishing a single point of entry at all buildings, and installing entry cameras and monitors, as well as one-way, reflective glass.

Scott Whitman, the district's information and operations manager, said the district has already invested about $153,000 in improving security and has earmarked about $200,000 more to carry out the committee's recommendation.

Now the issue is up to the board. Board Chairman Scott Grissom, who admitted he was "a bit disappointed" in the committee's inconclusive recommendation, said he plans to talk to Superintendent Cynda Rickert about amending the employee handbook and hopes other board members will follow suit.

"If she decides not to do it, then I may need to bring an action item to a regular meeting to direct her to do it," he said.

"Personally speaking, I would like to take the position of going silent ... so we neither restrict your constitutional rights nor do we all carry," he said during the meeting. "Hopefully, in the future, that is the direction this district will go."

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Correction: This story was corrected to say the committee was split evenly on the issue of concealed carry. The vote was not 10-10 as some members chose not to vote.