Education

NC education chief says more cops – and not armed teachers – will make schools safer

N.C. Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson reads a book to kindergarteners during his visit at East Garner Elementary School in Garner, N.C. on April 3, 2017. Johnson says he’s against arming teachers as a way to deal with school safety issues.
N.C. Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson reads a book to kindergarteners during his visit at East Garner Elementary School in Garner, N.C. on April 3, 2017. Johnson says he’s against arming teachers as a way to deal with school safety issues. amoody@newsobserver.com

North Carolina’s top school official says he’s against asking teachers to carry guns and that the state should instead provide more money to hire police officers to make schools safer following the recent Florida school massacre.

President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association have been among those who’ve been vocal in recent weeks about supporting the arming of teachers following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 people dead. With a new state committee formed to study how to make schools safer, state Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson issued a statement Monday saying it would be a burden to ask teachers to carry firearms.

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

“The General Assembly will be looking at all options in ensuring school safety here in North Carolina, and I look forward to working with them to determine the best ways to keep our students and educators safe,” Johnson continued.

“I support the expansion of funding for School Resource Officers. Firearms on school grounds should be in the hands of these trained, uniformed law-enforcement professionals who courageously choose a career protecting citizens from violent threats.”

The statement from Johnson, a Republican, drew support from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

“I agree,” Cooper tweeted. “Our teachers having to carry guns is a very bad idea.”

School resource officers are trained law enforcement officers who are assigned to work at schools. There are around 1,000 school resource officers in North Carolina’s public schools. More than 200 additional school resource officers were added in North Carolina after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

There was a school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, but Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the officer didn’t go in during the shooting. The deputy was suspended without pay and later resigned.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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