Cobb Country, Georgia, which has the second largest school district in the state, voted for a policy that will allow non-police officers to carry guns in the classroom, the Associated Press reports. However, the new rule will not allow teachers to carry firearms. This is a departure from some states like Ohio that cut down the training time for teachers to carry in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas mass shooting.
The 4-2 vote came down among ideological lines. Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the reasoning behind this new rule is that there is immense competition for hiring more police officers. Currently, the Associated Press states there are 67 officers for Cobb County’s 114 schools.
“If the board gave me a blank check and said go hire a school resource officer for every school in Cobb County, I could not do that,” Ragsdale said.
In 2014, Georgia passed a law allowing local school districts to arm teachers and staff, but only about four districts in total have pushed for this to happen. An earlier version of Cobb County’s provision would let teachers have firearms if only they met “unique qualifications.” Ragsdale disagreed with this method.
“I am not in favor of arming teachers. However, I am in favor of investigating all options so we could hire retired military, retired law enforcement,” Ragsdale said.
What is unclear is if this new policy will hire new people to be full-time security detail or repurpose employees working at the schools already to fill the role. The new policy does seem to have some checks in place. Ragsdale promises that people would undergo the same training as certified school resource officers.
They will also be required to undergo a psychological evaluation, and Police Chief Ron Storey will get the final say on approvals. Guns would have to be concealed on the body or secured in a locked safe as an additional safety measure.
However, some people don’t subscribe to this as a solution to school gun violence. While the vote was happening, gun control activists shouted, “Delay the vote!” and “Shame!”
Jaha Howard, a Democrat who serves on the Cobb County school board, said he “has yet to see any data or evidence that more gun-carrying professionals means our kids or staff will be safer.”
Democratic nominee for state superintendent of schools Alisha Thomas Searcy would like only certified police officers to have firearms in schools only.
“As a parent, the last thing I want to think about is more guns at my daughter’s school or any other type school,” she said during a public comment period. “I certainly agree that there’s a need for more caring adults in our school, but not ones who carry guns and aren’t police officers.”