News: Quick Takes

State superintendent, governor oppose arming teachers

File photo
File photo

State Superintendent Mark Johnson joined a chorus of voices against arming teachers in the wake of the Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead.

“We already ask so much of our educators. I do not believe we should ask them to take on another massive responsibility of having firearms in the classroom,” Johnson wrote in a tweet. “As State superintendent, I am working to reduce additional burdens on teachers so that they can spend more time focused on teaching.”

After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, President Donald Trump suggested giving bonuses to armed teachers. The National Rifle Association also has voiced support for arming teachers in the past.

But instead of arming teachers, Johnson — who is a Republican — said funding for school resource officers should be expanded.

SROs are sworn law enforcement officers who are assigned to work at schools. There are roughly 1,000 SROs assigned to North Carolina public schools.

A 2015 school resource officer census shows 66 percent of SROs serve one school, while 10 percent serve at least two schools. Thirteen percent are assigned to three schools and 6 percent cover four schools.

Despite comprising 58 percent of public schools, elementary schools are covered by only 26 percent of SROS. The majority serve at middle or high schools.

“Firearms on school grounds should be in the hands of these trained, uniformed, law-enforcement professionals who courageously chose a career protecting citizens from violent threats,” Johnson wrote.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, tweeted his support of Johnson’s statement, adding that he thinks arming teachers is a very bad idea.

On Feb. 20, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, announced appointments to the House Select Committee on School Safety. Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston and House Rules Chairman Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, will co-chair the committee.

“This committee will evaluate current state policy and examine recommendations to best protect our precious children and educators,” Moore said during the Feb. 20 press conference. “It is our duty to provide the highest level of physical security for our kids’ classrooms through access control, surveillance and training.”

Moore will attend and participate in a news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Reidsville with Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page and other local officials. They will discuss a Volunteer School Resource Officer Safety Initiative.