Jul 15, 2022 - News

Cobb schools allow non-police officers to carry guns on campus

Illustration of a row of pencils getting shorter with a bullet at the end.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The Cobb County School District will allow people who are not certified police officers to carry firearms in its schools.

  • The policy does not arm teachers or other employees whose primary responsibility is to supervise classrooms or educate students.

Driving the news: School board members on Thursday voted 4-2 to approve Superintendent Chris Ragsdale's policy to hire people who have no Georgia Peace Officer Standards Training Council certification to carry weapons on district property.

  • The Council certifies all law enforcement officers in Georgia.

Why it matters: School districts across the country are grappling with the task of keeping their students safe.

  • The latest high profile incident resulted in a gunman killing 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, while officers waited more than an hour before taking out the suspect.

Board members Jaha Howard and Leroy "Tre" Hutchins opposed the recommendation while David Banks, David Chastain, Randy Scamihorn and Brad Wheeler approved the request.

What they're saying: Ragsdale said during the work session that the policy allows the district to protect students in a time when it's hard for law enforcement departments to attract officers.

  • "This policy will allow us to embark on that path to make sure that we are doing everything possible, while also keeping in mind that it is a very difficult time right now to be able to hire police officers," he said during a work session prior to the meeting.

Of note: Ragsdale said people hired will be required to undergo the same training and evaluation required of certified police officers and that district police chief Ron Storey will have the final say on any hiring recommendations.

Several parents and community members spoke in opposition to the district's policy. The board meeting was interrupted meeting by audience members shouting, "Delay the vote," which prompted Board Chair David Chastain to call for a recess.

The other side: Alisha Thomas Searcy, a Cobb parent and former state legislator, said arming non-P.O.S.T.-certified people in schools is not the answer to the problem of keeping students safe in a world of inevitable mass shootings.

  • ยท "I urge you to rethink what you have done in this case because this is not the solution," she said.
  • Howard, who called on the board to delay taking action until its Aug. 22 meeting, said the district should hire officers and "not gun carrying professionals who are not technically police officers, but who have been trained just like our police officers."

Flashback: The Georgia General Assembly passed a law in 2014 allowing school districts to arm educators in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

  • Since that law passed, only two Georgia districts โ€” Laurens County and Fannin County โ€” have opted to arm teachers and staff.
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