Fannin school board considers arming certain personnel on campuses
(Ed. note: The following article is taken from a longer report of the Fannin County Board of Education meeting earlier this month.)
Certain personnel in the Fannin County School System may soon be allowed to carry guns in a controlled and vetted partnership between the schools and the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.
During the April school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Benny Long, Associate Superintendent Betsy Hyde and School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney introduced a proposed policy that lays out a process for arming selected employees on a voluntary basis.
Citing Georgia law, school officials explained the proposed policy falls in line with state rules that strictly control possession of weapons on school property to increase safety. Law allowing local school boards to authorize arming certain personnel on a voluntary basis gave momentum to Fannin’s proposed policy.
Gwatney said tools such as defibrillators, tourniquets and fire extinguishers are at the core of responding to emergencies in the schools. Likewise, a firearm would be a tool.
“The spirit of (the) board policy ... is to create an opportunity for certain trained volunteer personnel to utilize that tool to stop — or at least minimize — the damage being done by one who has complete disregard for human life, as well as society’s laws, and is inappropriately using a weapon to harm or kill others,” Gwatney said.
The four main points laid out in the policy address the following issues:
﹣ Appropriate training for volunteer personnel to carry an approved weapon. Approval will come through Gwatney and Sheriff Dane Kirby;
﹣ Approved list of types of weapons and ammunition will be kept for each approved, licensed and trained employee by Gwatney and Kirby;
﹣ Those selected to carry on school premises will be done voluntarily with the final decision made by Gwatney. Those chosen will be licensed under firearm law and annually undergo a criminal history background check. No one with employment or history of mental or emotional instability will be approved. At anytime, removal or suspension of the authority to carry can take place; and,
﹣ Approved personnel will be required to carry the concealed weapon in a holster on themselves or in a secured, locked safe.
“Drastic acts require drastic response sometimes,” Kirby said. He cited the need to face changing reality and be prepared if any school were to face an active shooter. Even with School Resource Officers (SROs) at each school, they cannot be everywhere at once, Kirby said.