Officials want more information and community input before deciding whether to act on a policy allowing board-approved personnel to carry handguns at McAlester Public Schools.

MPS Superintendent Randy Hughes previously voiced concerns about arming school employees, but said continued campus security concerns led him to reconsider his stance to not act on a school policy allowing authorized personnel to carry handguns on school property.

“I was never a big proponent of that, but as situations have occurred…response time takes so long to get to each of the buildings,” Hughes said. “In the event something happens and we have nobody there, (armed personnel) can help defend the kids.”

Parker Intermediate Center Principal Jamie Price said she believes school personnel are entrusted with protecting students in a school shooting or emergency situation, adding that she believes in exhausting all options to keep students safe.

“I would rather have a chance to not only defend my kids at my school, my staff, but also myself to not leave my children without a mom,” Price said.

Emerson Elementary Principal Karen Johnson said an employee at her campus feels like a “sitting duck” if there were a school shooting. Will Rogers Elementary Principal Preston James said he believes arming personnel would help the district protect students and deter any incidents.

“I hate the fact that we have to consider this, but I’m also not naive to the fact that have to consider this,” MPS Board President Vic Wheeler said.

“I’m on the fence with this,” said board member Shelli Colbert. “I don’t feel comfortable with knowing that a teacher or principal or a school employee is armed. I definitely want our kids to be safe but I don’t feel comfortable (with arming MPS personnel).”

MPS board members adopted a policy in 2015 allowing designated school personnel to carry a handgun on school property.

Individuals must possess a valid armed security guard license or a valid reserve peace officer certification and must be approved by the MPS board of education to carry a handgun on school property, the policy states.

School board members must approve the handgun and ammunition to be used by authorized employees, the policy states. The policy states the handgun must be carried in an approved holster or stored in a locked and secure location at all times.

“If at any time, the handgun is pointed at someone or discharged on school premises, a written report documenting the incident shall be prepared within twenty-four (24) hours of the incident or discharge by the employee who pointed the weapon or discharged the weapon and the superintendent,” the policy states.

The policy also calls for immediate notification of law enforcement if the weapon is pointed at someone or discharged — after which, the superintendent can suspend the employee pending a formal decision by the school board whether the employee can continue to carry a weapon.

Hartshorne Public Schools and Pittsburg Public Schools have previously implemented measures to arm personnel with handguns on school property.

MPS personnel and board members discussed other measures to improve campus security, such as the addition of security doors and a school resource officer. Hughes said the district is looking into adding a second school resource officer.

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

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