Teachers and other staff members from several school districts across Missouri started training this week for certification to carry concealed handguns on campus once school commences this fall.
The Kansas City Star reported that 10 districts have already completed the course at Shield Solutions, while three more are scheduled to undergo the training, and several other districts are currently in the process of negotiating contracts with the company.
The majority of the schools involved are smaller districts with limited funds and miles from law enforcement. In an active shooter scenario — or other event which could put students and staff in harm’s way — every single minute counts, and in some of these more rural districts, officers can be up to a half hour or more away.
None of the schools are required to participate in the training though and any district can opt out if they so choose.
“That needs to be a local decision,” said Paul Fennewald, a former FBI agent who is now the Missouri School Board Association’s special safety adviser.
Tim Thomas, director of instruction and facilities for the Warsaw School District, which was one of the first to enroll in the training program, said that they have received nothing but positive feedback from parents for their decision to arm school staff. When the district made the decision, letters were sent home to the parents outlining their intentions.
The training provided by Shield Solutions, whose instructors are all current law enforcement, comes at a cost of $17,500 for every two staff members. Upon completion, those staff members become employees of Shield Solutions, a type of security guard dubbed “School Protection Officers.”
Only the school district administration and local law enforcement will know which staff members have completed the training and are carrying concealed firearms.
The training consists of 40 hours – five hours of classroom instruction and 35 hours of range time. And the instructors don’t go easy on their pupils either. Although participants may begin their training wet behind the ears, by the end of the course they are required to prove that they can not only handle a gun safely and accurately. Additionally, the training also prepares the class to handle the emotional toil that comes when dealing with a potentially lethal situation. And if they can’t cut it, they’re cut from the program, but the school district has the option of sending another staffer in their stead.
In a recent class there was one elementary school teacher who couldn’t handle the military-style training, complete with running uphill as punishment for making mistakes.
“She’s not going to make it,” said Dan Wehmer, sales manager for Shield Solutions, who was initially told that the idea of armed teachers wouldn’t fly. “She can’t handle the stress. And if she can’t handle it out here, what would she do in a real situation?”
Greg Martin, founder of Shield Solutions and a former Missouri Highway Patrol trooper, believes the physical and emotional strain imposed is a vital part of the training.
They have to know that they won’t crumble under stress and that they can and will pull the trigger during an active shooter scenario to save lives, even if it means that – heaven forbid – the shooter is their own student who has sat in their own classroom.
“It adds to the stress,” Martin said. “But it makes them better. “They can’t fail at this.”