When the new school year begins at Luther Public Schools, there will be some changes including a new principal at each school, new teachers, teacher and staff pay raises, and some new policies. One policy adopted by the Board of Education addresses school safety. The district is one of the first in the state to adopt an “armed school personnel” policy, allowing certain LPS employees to carry a concealed handgun.
A search reveals there have been 35 deaths and 67 injuries from gun-related incidents in US schools just in 2018. While there have been no shootings at LPS, there were two incidents last school year that put the district on high alert. One involved a so-called “hit list” against students and teachers discovered last November that led to the expulsion and arrest of the student for the rest of the 2017-2018 school year. Then in March, the FBI was involved in the pursuit of a former student who posted on social media that he wanted to “shoot up the school.”
The Luther Armed School Personnel policy was unanimously adopted by the board on June 28. It’s a measure that will allow the superintendent to carefully selected personnel, faculty or staff, to conceal a handgun on school property. Superintendent Barry Gunn said he never thought this would be necessary when he began his education career almost 30 years ago. “It just makes common sense today,” he said. Mr. Gunn begins his second school year as superintendent when classes resume on Thursday, August 16.
The new policy is stringent. Gunn said those selected will undergo training beyond state requirements. They must also satisfy LPS requirements and Gunn’s standards that he said will include extra security training and regular mental evaluation. They also must qualify two times a year.
Gunn also said no one except for the superintendent will know who will be carrying. The names of school personnel that are authorized to carry a firearm must be kept confidential. Any district personnel that reveals the identity of an authorized personnel may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination, the policy states.
Board members CJ Cavin and Tony Rumpl helped write the policy. Rumpl, with his career in law enforcement and Homeland Security training, answered a few questions about the policy (the policy is transcribed below).
Luther Register: Obviously, this is a sensitive issue and wasn’t an easy decision, but does it reflect the “times” as a measure of PRO-action to address mass shootings, particularly at schools.
Tony Rumpl: Speaking for myself, arming some of the school staff in an effort to protect our kids was an easy decision. I think the need for this has become apparent over the last few years. The trend of mass shootings at soft targets, particularly public schools, seems to be increasing.
LR: To concerned parents, how are you responding?
TR: Most of the parents I’ve spoken to about this policy seem to support it. I think they recognize the need. I welcome anyone to contact me if they wish to discuss our plans.
LR: This plan seems to be just one proactive measure you are taking in a bigger plan to address student safety. Should parents be assured that the district is doing all it can?
TR: Although arming some of our staff is probably the most interesting measure we are adopting in an effort to protect our students and faculty, it is definitely not the only one. Mr. Gunn has been working to make improvements to access control and entry point hardening, among other things. He and I worked together to identify some vulnerabilities, and I commend him for working to correct those. Obviously, we don’t want to get specific in listing what those vulnerabilities are. But I feel confident they are being remedied.
LR: It sounds like Luther Public Schools is “trailblazing” this effort – being out in front of it since the Oklahoma State Department of Education has no data on this. Do you expect other districts to follow, and look to Luther as a model?
TR: I don’t know if “trailblazing” is the right term. I know of at least one other Oklahoma district that adopted a similar policy. I do think that we are at the forefront in terms of the level of commitment and resources we are willing to invest in ensuring the safety of everyone on our campuses. I’m grateful that the Luther Board of Education is united in this resolve.
As to other Districts looking to us as a model, I would certainly welcome that. I am currently looking at ways to provide assistance to other schools across Oklahoma.
LR: You have special training in this area. Will you share what official training you have?
TR: I worked in private security prior to joining the Department of Public Safety in January of 1999. Like every other State Trooper, I’ve worked accidents and written tickets, but the majority of my experience has been in the field of Physical Security. For the last 10 years, I’ve been assigned to the Governor’s Security Detail. I am the primary Firearms Instructor for the OHP’s Executive Security division. In addition to the abundant training I’ve received at the State level, I’ve also completed several courses through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, including their two-week Physical Security Training Program, and most recently their Active Shooter Threat Instructor Program.
Luther’s Armed School Personnel Policy is as follows:
Armed School Personnel
The Board of Education authorizes the carrying of a handgun onto school property by school personnel designated by the superintendent, upon notification to the board of education.
The names of school personnel that are authorized to carry a firearm must be kept confidential. Any district personnel that reveals the identity of an authorized personnel may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.
Individuals who are authorized by the superintendent to carry a firearm on school premises must:
- Hold a valid reserve peace officer certification as provided for in 3311 of Title 70; or
- Complete training course to be approved at the sole dissertation of the superintendent AND possess a valid concealed handgun license.
The superintendent shall have the final authority to determine and designate school personnel who will be authorized to obtain the proper licenses or training in connection with their employment as school personnel. Participation in either armed security guard training programs, the reserve police officer program or a training course designated by the superintendent shall be voluntary and shall not in any way be considered a requirement for continued employment with the school district as per 70 OS 5-149.2. The school district shall pay all necessary training, meal and lodging expenses associated with the training required above.
Authorized personnel shall only use a handgun and ammunition that have been approved by or issued by the board of education. The firearm shall be carried in an approved holster and appropriately secured on the person of the authorized personnel or the firearm must be stored in a locked and secure location at all times while the person is on school property.
Authorized personnel shall be responsible for ensuring that his/her issued firearm is pointed at someone or discharged on school premises, a written report documenting the incident shall be prepared within 24 hours by the authorized personnel who was involved and the superintendent. Law enforcement and the board of education shall be immediately notified that a weapon has been pointed at someone or discharged by the authorized personnel of the superintendent.
The board of education hereby delegates to the superintendent the ability to permanently revoke the ability of personnel to carry a firearm. The decision of the superintendent is not appealable. Due process does not apply to the carrying of a firearm. If the superintendent revokes the ability to carry a firearm, the personnel must immediately turn over the handgun and ammunition to the superintendent, who shall store the weapons in a locked and secure location.