A Wyoming school district in Evanston – a town in the southwest corner of the state with a district enrollment of 2,973 students – voted in March to put guns in the hands of teachers and staff. Uinta County School District #1 is the first in Wyoming to act on state legislation passed in 2017 to let local school districts decide whether to permit concealed carry in schools.
The district’s policy allows staff who already have a concealed carry permit to submit an application to the district. Staff will have to undergo a psychological evaluation and no less than 24 hours of initial training before receiving final approval from the school board.
The policy will go in effect on July 1, 2018. Applicants will undergo training this summer to be ready for the 2018-2019 school year. Applications may be accepted as early as May.
Opponents who spoke at the school board meeting said arming staff is an extreme measure that distracts from other necessary steps to improve school climate and security. One trustee said she was concerned that the community had not been notified the vote would happen so soon, and that more time was needed to discuss the measure with students. The policy passed 5-2 with two absent.
The district website — https://www.uinta1.com/ — spotlights the new policy with links to the following District Safety and Security Draft Policies: School safety and security draft policy, application, firearms and holsters, ammunition, and training.
Nationally, both President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos support allowing teachers to arm themselves. This stance is in opposition to a recent article written by Scientific American that arming teachers is not a good option.
In an interesting twist, the University of Wyoming – the state’s only four-year university – bans carrying a concealed weapon on the college campus. It’s one of only 16 college campuses with the ban. Much of the debate to arm teachers has historically centered on college campuses, but in 2017, Governor Matt Mead signed the concealed-carry legislation, allowing school districts to decide if they want to arm teachers.
According to Giffords Law Center, school districts in Wyoming can authorize a school employee with a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed firearm on or into school facilities or other areas designated by the board of trustees. A “school employee” is defined by law and includes superintendents, teacher, teacher’s aids, librarians, coaches, and janitors, to name a few.
The law also states that employees must “carry the firearm or keep it in a concealed biometric container or lock box within the direct control of the individual at all times. The school district must establish an application and approval process for employees possessing a valid concealed carry permit. The district must also establish training requirements, curricula, and instructor qualifications, subject to approval by local law enforcement.”
The training course must include:
- An initial course that includes at least 16 hours of live fire handgun training, and eight hours of “scenario-based training using nonlethal training,” firearms, and ammunition; and
- Annual firearm qualification and documented recurrent training of not less than 12 hours with an approved instructor.
The board of trustees in any school district, however, may waive all or part of the training requirements for isolated rural schools and employees in those schools. The superintendent of the district must notify all law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over the area of the location and names of all employees who receive permission to carry firearms. The identities of the employees who receive permission to carry firearms shall be confidential and not public records.
Wyoming prohibits students from possessing a firearm on public school grounds, and generally prohibits concealed weapons on K-12 campuses by non-employees. The state, though, does not have a general prohibition on the possession of firearms on school property.