State of Virginia rejects Lee County’s bid to arm teachers

The board votes to arm educators. (YouTube)

By Megan Mayernik
Staff Writer

The Department of Criminal Justice Services struck down a school board’s plan in rural Virginia that would allow a selection of teachers and staff members to carry concealed weapons on school grounds, according to The Washington Post. The Lee County School Board’s plan, voted on in July, was rejected on Sept. 23, and Superintendent Brian Austin’s application to register as an armed special conservator of the peace was also rejected.

Amidst the escalating fear of mass shootings, there is a push to amplify security in schools. Since the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, more than 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings, according to The New York Times.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018, many school districts began campaigns to allow their teachers to carry firearms to protect their students. According to CNN, 14 states have proposed 25 bills or resolutions which relate to arming school employees following the Parkland shooting.

Upon the denied response, Austin sought legal counsel, and is considering appealing the verdict, according to The Washington Post. If successful in its pursuit, the Lee County school system will be the first in Virginia to permit staff to be armed during school hours.

According to Vice News, various school districts, such as those in Texas and Utah, have allowed teachers to carry guns for more than a decade. Despite the fact that the Lee County School Board’s plan was denied, at least 14 other states already arm teachers during school hours.

Officials in Lee County argue that the school district cannot afford to hire armed school resource officers, according to The Washington Post.

According to NPR, Title IV, the law that determines what federal funds are to be used for within education systems, is intended for “student support and academic enrichment.” In addition, the act also permits spending on violence prevention.

Ultimately, Title IV provisions are determined by the state. The section about violence prevention in schools specifically gives states the decision on how to spend their money in order to create safe conditions, according to NPR. The specifications of this law explain why Virginia was able to make the decision of rejecting the Lee County School Board’s request, despite the fact that other states have granted the same request.

Though Austin and the Lee County School Board were denied in their plan to allow for a selection of teachers and staff members to carry concealed weapons on school grounds, Austin has until Oct. 13 to appeal the decision, according to the Washington Post.