‘The idea that we can’t make decisions for ourselves is ridiculous,’ said a mother from Morgantown

Local school boards won’t be able to turn down a teacher’s request to carry a gun on school grounds, according to legislation that passed through the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

The bill would also allow K-12 public and private school teachers to conceal carry in an effort to bolster school safety.

As lawmakers considered House Bill 4851, Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, successfully amended the legislation to mandate that school boards honor a teacher’s request to carry a gun as a designated school safety officer.

Foster, who is a father, became emotional when asking for support for his amendment.

“What can be any more local control like allowing a teacher that cares about their students and wants to protect them from allowing them to do it?” he questioned.

The House of Delegates approved Foster’s amendment with a 79-21 vote.

For Christina Morgan, a Morgantown parent of students and Monongalia County school board candidate, the amendment made a concerning bill more problematic as local school boards couldn’t decide to add armed teachers to other types of personnel, like resource officers.

“The idea that we can’t make decisions for ourselves is ridiculous,” she said.

Morgan, 43, continued, “As a parent, I’m very concerned about outfitting another responsibility on teachers on top of what they already have to deal with in oversized classrooms.”

The House failed to approve an amendment put forth by Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, that would have given teachers and staff who chose conceal carry a one time $25,000 bonus.

The House then passed the bill on a party-line vote, 89-11, that would authorize concealed carry for teachers in schools after a lengthy and sometimes fiery debate where many Republicans rose in support of the measure. The bill comes with no funding but could take up to $275,000 to implement.

More than two dozen states allow someone other than a school resource officer to carry a firearm on school grounds, though regulations vary.

Del. Dave Foggin, R-Wood
Del. Dave Foggin, R-Wood, a teacher, said he had waited 24 years in his career for this legislation that he felt would enable him to better protect his students.

“I can do nothing against a person with a gun in my classroom,” he said. “When they walk through the door, they’re in complete control.”

All 11 House Democrats voted against the measure, which will now head to the Senate for consideration.

While many Democrats publicly stated that school safety must be a priority, they felt the bill fell short on safety and training guardrails.

Under the legislation, teachers, staff and school personnel 21 years of age and over would be required to complete an officer training program that was no more than 24 hours. They’d also be required to pass a background check and have a valid concealed handgun permit.

“I’m worried that with such little training these folks are not going to be adequately prepared to do this,” said Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha. “I worry about someone having a gun in my young children’s school. It scares me. It scares me a lot.”

House Minority Leader Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell
House Minority Leader Sean Hornbuckle told lawmakers that this bill wasn’t fully vetted for safety concerns, including about what could happen if a teacher left a gun unattended in a classroom.

A recent survey found that armed adults “frequently mishandle their guns in schools.” In one instance, a teacher’s loaded gun fell from his waistband during a cartwheel.

Morgan shared her own safety concerns, saying, “I also worry about power relationships between teachers, and how other teachers will feel knowing that other teachers have a gun.”

Hornbuckle called for a focus on mental health as he has sponsored a bill that would expand mental health services in some schools.

“Everybody in this body wants to protect our schools, wants to protect our children … and until we as a body all 100 Democrats and Republicans alike address in a robust way to help with our mental health issues, we need to pause this conversation,” he said.

He called on the Legislature to stop running controversial bills that targeted groups of people for their lifestyles, saying it perpetuated the kind of hate that prompted school shootings.

“Until we, as a body, stop doing those things, these things will continue, no matter how many guns you have in schools,” he said.


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