Ever since Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and two other state legislators indicated an openness to allowing teachers and other school staffers to carry guns, area school officials have diverted conversations away from taking sure drastic measures.
Reactions have varied from absolute opposition, to the need for community involvement, to investing more money in identifying and assisting people with mental illness.
Since the Valentine’s Day massacre in Parkland, Fla., when a former student armed with an AR-15 killed 14 students and three teachers officials have been voicing their opinions in reaction to Schimel’s comments at a press conference indicating his willingness, along with other legislators, to discuss funding to train teachers to carry firearms in school districts.
State Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, proposed a bill to allow weapons in private schools if they want them as a pilot project. It could be expanded to public schools if it proved worthwhile, but no bills will be considered this legislative session.
The idea that schools need armed guards has been discussed, but nixed by area school district administration across the Coulee Region, who are in favor of more open communication as the first step in preventing the growing frequency of school related shootings.
At the local level, Westby Area School District Interim Administrator John Burnett wrote an editorial to the Westby Times regarding the concept of arming teachers inside the classroom, which can be read in its entirety on page A-7.
In his editorial, Burnett said the reasons for the increase in school shootings are complex and a solution is also complex and schools by themselves will not be able to solve this societal issue.
Burnett said, the debate continues to focus on the availability of assault weapons, background checks, and the need to do a better job of addressing mental health issues.
“All of these are issues that need to be part of community conversations as together we look for ways to protect our children. I believe we need to listen to all parties,” Burnett said, “Hopefully the communication between these differing groups will produce understanding and that understanding will result in solutions that increase our ability to ensure our students have the safe schools they deserve.”
Westby schools have been proactive in working with staff, parents, students and law enforcement to prepare for the type of situation that everyone prays never happens in their hometown. Last summer all district staff members were involved in intense ALICE training scenario that involved emergency personnel from several area counties. The event was an eye-opening experience and left everyone thinking outside the box on how they could effectively improve safety measures within the school district
The Westby Times also received a editorial from a respected community member, Tom Sharratt, who said the time has come to take a stand through open discussion on the best way to keep our children safe in this ever changing world.
Sharratt believes in the Second Amendment and doesn’t want to take guns away from all citizens. Instead he wants people to stand-up, be prepared, and let their voices be heard when it comes to promoting reasonable laws to protect lives while not trampling on the Second Amendment.
Sharratt’s editorial can also be read in its entirety on page A-7.