Kansas considers bill to help arm teachers despite concerns - KCTV5

Kansas considers bill to help arm teachers despite concerns

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The SAFER Act stands for ‘Staff As First Emergency Responders.’ The bill would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons. (KCTV5) The SAFER Act stands for ‘Staff As First Emergency Responders.’ The bill would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons. (KCTV5)
TOPEKA, KS (KCTV/AP) -

Legislation that would help put guns in the hands of Kansas schoolteachers has prompted worried lawmakers, teachers and citizens to a pack committee hearing.

The bill reviewed Tuesday by the House Insurance Committee would hold school districts potentially negligent if they don't permit a licensed employee to carry a concealed gun on premises.

In addition, insurance companies would not be allowed to refuse coverage to schools because they have armed staff.

During the committee's hearing, supporters proposed an amendment to strike the section that would hold school districts negligent. But that move did little to turn opposition around on the issue.

The legislation has provisions similar to another school safety bill up for debate in the full House that is focused on improving school infrastructure instead of arming staff.

The Shawnee Mission School District is the third largest in Kansas with more than 27,000 students. But after reviewing the proposed SAFER Act, school leaders said putting more guns in schools is asking for more problems.

“Arming teachers is not the answer,” said Rick Atha, Shawnee Mission School District assistant superintendent for instructional support.

The SAFER Act stands for ‘Staff As First Emergency Responders.’ The bill would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons. Under the current bill, if districts don’t arm their staff, they could be criminally responsible if there’s a tragedy.

Shawnee Mission says they don’t need concealed weapons in their schools. They already have a school police department.

“We are also opposed to section E15-2 that threatens to punish school districts with enhanced financial burdens if they fail to arm teachers,” Atha said.

Kansas City, KS Public Schools also has their own school police department with 35 full-time sworn officers.

Through a statement, they said, “we believe that HB 2789 would interfere with those efforts, and ultimately make students and staff less safe.”

School teacher and Overland Park representative Brett Parker collected more than 5,000 signatures and hundreds of written testimonies against the bill.

Under the SAFER Act, parents would not be able to find out which teachers are carrying a gun. If the school discloses that information they could face a Class C misdemeanor.

Blake Carpenter, the co-sponsor of the bill, says the districts would not run the risk of being dropped by their insurance company if they arm their staff

“This basically makes it to where insurance companies can't be discriminatory just based on the fact that they're allowing conceal-carry,” he said.

This bill also calls for districts to create an emergency response plan and provide gun safety education.

Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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