State Bill provides for firearm training

Rachel McDonald, Editor-in-Chief

On February 21, the Indiana House passed a bill, House Bill 1177, that will fund 40 hours of firearm training for teachers and school employees.

House Bill 1177 is a revision to the existing bill that states school employees are allowed to carry in the classroom per school corporation authorization. This bill adds training based on the training law enforcement officials currently use. The direction Greenwood Community Schools takes is now up to corporation.

“The school board would have to make a policy. We have to have internal conversations first. We start with our administrative team and then our school board; we find our direction from there. It will be a collective decision from the entire Greenwood School Corporation. I tend to be a little more conservative, so I am waiting to see what other districts do first and see if it is something that would be a good fit for our school. We would also discuss with teachers and bring in a wider group. I see the good of this and the potential bad. There is no right or wrong. We want things to be as safe and secure as possible, so now we just have to decide the direction we will take as a corporation,” Dr. Terry Terhune, superintendent, said.

The close proximity of emergency responders means help would be on the way quickly.

“If we ever had an incident, it would only be a minute or two, and we would have an entire task force here. I feel good about that because it would be a small amount of time. That is where our training for an active shooter comes into play: for our students and teachers to lock the door, barricade, and get ready to protect themselves. If they can just hold off anyone entering the room for one to two minutes, they are most likely going to survive because by then the emergency responders will be here,” Principal Michael Gasaway said.

The state-funded firearm training is a subjective approach to ensuring gun violence safety.

“It is a sticky situation, and I think it is a fine line. The logistics need to be really detailed and planned out. Administrators in each school district will need to use their common sense and their relationships with teachers to determine the best way to handle this. I think if it is done correctly that it would be beneficial for safety,” Mrs. Stephanie Senac, English teacher, said.

Some teachers express concern that this could lead to more of an issue than a solution.

“I think it is a right hearted attempt to help, but it is a wrong minded attempt to help. I don’t see how putting more guns in the situation will ever improve gun violence. There are a lot of instances where there could be an altercation and the gun could be taken away from the carrier. Teachers are here to educate; we are not here to be police. That is not the career we chose. I think it is counterproductive to an already bad problem,” Mrs. Sandy James, social studies teacher, said.

Student resource officers already have a presence on school. Some teachers said funding should go towards having more law enforcement on campus as opposed to arming teachers.

“I think it is a misallocation of resources personally. We are talking about a lot of money being put toward this. It is enough money that we would be better off adding another officer to the building. That way their sole purpose is to protect, and they are not involved with the teaching aspect. That would make more jobs for the Greenwood community because although they might be part-time with the city, then there would always be someone here with a strict law enforcement background,” Mr. Jeremy Runge, social studies teacher, said.

Active shooting situations often share the commonality that mental illness plays a major role. In 2022 alone, which leads to the question if having early intervention to mental illness would prevent this growing number.

“Having more counselors in elementary schools and middle schools would help prevent danger in the future. The problem is every time we try to get mental health things passed, it often gets stopped. We need to redirect this thought of ‘Let’s get teachers armed’ to ‘Let’s work to help kids that are mentally ill.’ It would be awesome to see this be redirected to something positive. Where mental illness is concerned we need to be more vigilant as a society. We need to look for ways to help kids with mental issues before they become adults and take drastic measures,” Mrs. James said.

This past summer, there was an active shooter situation at the Greenwood Park Mall, which was stopped by another armed citizen. There are two sides to having armed teachers: one which the threat could be eliminated by carrying a firearm and one which the danger of keeping a firearm in a classroom setting.

“If you think about the Greenwood Park Mall shooting, you had a good guy who had a gun and was able to stop the shooter before more people were harmed. If our school was ever in a situation like that, the more good armed people you have, the safer we could be. But at the same time, anytime a gun is involved, things could always go south. I think it is a sad conversation that we even have to have,” Mrs. Senac said.

Safety will always be the first priority, regardless of the decisions made.

“We can’t ever say that it is never going to happen here. We just have to do as much training and as much proactive things as we can to be as safe as possible. This would just add another level of security if the worst thing was to happen. We are preparing for something that will hopefully never happen,” Dr. Terhune said.