Teachers weigh in on gun question

MARTINS FERRY — Amid reports of school shootings and alleged threats by students, some suggest arming teachers could be a way to deter such violence.

While many local districts utilize resource officers for security, The Times Leader approached some teachers and administrators to determine if they would feel comfortable carrying a gun and, if necessary, using it.

Greg Miller, science teacher at Union Local Middle School, said he had confidence in security measures.

“I don’t think it’s necessary. Within our district, we have very visible law enforcement here,” he said, adding that local situations did not match that which surrounded a recent shooting in Florida. “Down in Florida, I believe that was a very large campus…If you have a larger area, a larger campus, you need to make sure your law enforcement is there.”

Miller said there are many variables involved.

âThereás a huge liability issue. Thereás factors that you have to take into consideration. If you were to fire upon a perpetrator, itás just not that easy. Itás not a paintball that stops on contact. Itás a projectile that can travel through a body. It can travel through a wall, and you donát know whatás on the other side of that target. Thatás a huge risk. Youád hate to injure a student, an innocent bystander, and on top of that, you donát know if you could lose your job, probably go to jail. With todayás society, you donát know the repercussion if, God forbid, something happens like that.ã

Sheryl Sonk, sixth grade teacher at Union Local, opposes the idea.

âI personally think that teachers carrying a firearm to school, a concealed weapon or otherwise, is a bad idea. We donát need more guns in the school — we need less. I would prefer to trust law enforcement or security agents that have been hired and screened and vetted by the school district,ã she said.

âI would also worry about students who might access or get control of a weapon from a teacher, and I also would fear if a teacher had a weapon and tried to defend the students, that they might be misinterpreted as being the shooter and then be shot by police officers. And I also cannot imagine if one of my students brought a weapon to school, I donát think I could shoot that student, no matter what was happening.ã

Union Local math teacher Mark Spade also commented.

âI havenát put much thought into it. I know that there are schools around Ohio that do have armed teachers, and if theyáve had the proper training and they go through all the requirements and qualifications, itás up to the district on that one,ã he said.

Jayme Yonak, curriculum director at Union Local, would entertain the policy.

âI personally am not comfortable with guns, but I can see some value in it if you had people that were very well-trained and educated in gun safety, because it does seem like the mass shootings are geared toward entities where theyáre not armed. Theyáre looking for places where there arenát guns, where thereás easy, soft targets. I do see that if schools did have people that were carrying, it could most likely serve as a deterrent for people that were going in and doing these mass-type murders,ã she said. âRight now, schools and these public facilities are targets.ã

Dana Kendziorski, pre-kindergarten through second grade elementary school principal at Union Local, said it would depend on the situation and people involved.

âAs long as people are properly trained. I know some schools — they have staff that carry guns, but theyáre not identified, who they are. I think thatás important because then they become a target if you know who they are in the building,ã she said. âIn my elementary, I have 700-plus kids. Thatás a lot of responsibility if somebody other than the resource officer carried a gun, and theyád better know what theyáre doing. I was raised on a farm — Iáve been around guns all my life. If I was properly trained, I would possibly consider it.ã

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK

Officer Joe Perry of the Martins Ferry Police Department observes the Martins Ferry City Schools campus as one of the resource officers. With the rise of school shootings and the recent reports of threats made by local students, The Times Leader asked area educators their opinions about the prospect of arming teachers as another potential layer of defense and deterrence.