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Morning Bell: Another Oklahoma school allows armed teachers

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Signs at Okemah Public Schools notify visitors that some staff carry guns. (Photo by Dave Morris)
Signs at Okemah Public Schools notify visitors that some staff carry guns. (Photo by Dave Morris)

Good Wednesday morning! There are just 22 days until many schools, including OKCPS, start the new year. I won't offer a running countdown in the days to come, but that's crazy. 

Arming teachers: The Hartshorne Public Schools Board of Education unanimously voted last month to allow personnel to carry guns so long as they're certified by the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training.

The McAlester News-Capital reports that any teachers wanting to carry a firearm on campus will be required to obtain certification and must be approved by the superintendent. School officials said the district will look into hiring certified armed security guards if there's not enough interest from school personnel.

Hartshorne Superintendent Jason Lindley says the decision resulted from school security discussions following several school shootings in recent years. 

Hartshorne, which is located in southeast Oklahoma, becomes one of just a few schools in the state to allow staff to carry a gun. Earlier this year I wrote about Okemah Public Schools, which also allows licensed staff to carry a gun. 

"It's just a better way to protect the kids," said Bert Robison, a parent of two middle school students and Okemah's city manager.

"You can protect with a locked door, but if someone breaks through the locked door, there needs to be somebody there who can neutralize the situation," he said.

The debate over arming teachers intensified this year following a February school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

In 2015, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill to allow staff to carry a gun inside a school, essentially requiring the individual to complete the same training as an armed security guard or reserve peace officer.

Have you heard of any other Oklahoma districts considering armed staff and teachers? Let me know at bfelder@oklahoman.com.

Spending threshold

Most Oklahoma school districts spent less than 60 percent on instruction last year, which is the minimum Gov. Mary Fallin has set in a potentially far-reaching executive order dated Nov. 21, reports Oklahoma Watch. 

Under the order, the Department of Education is to provide by Sept. 1 each year a list of districts spending less than 60 percent on instruction. Those districts will be targeted for administrative consolidation or annexation by a nearby district. If they don’t submit a plan, the State Board of Education and Education Department will develop one and require the district to implement it.

Jennifer Palmer of Oklahoma Watch has a close look at how this spending minimum might impact schools that are already facing challenging budget situations. 

Students offer lesson to teachers 

High school students who are planning to enroll in college or enter the workforce would appreciate more classes that would help them start the next chapter in their lives, a panel of students said Monday at the EngageOK on the Road education conference, which is traveling the state this month. 

The conference included a panel discussion between seven high school students and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister and seven high school students, reports the Ada News

“I kind of have an idea about what I want to do in college, but I don’t know exactly what I want to do, and I want to plan my classes accordingly, like geared toward that career,” Latta High junior Maggi Dansby said. “And if I don’t know what to do because I don’t have that experience — I don’t have that little taste of what I want to do — I don’t think I can plan accordingly.”

Edmond teacher wins history award

Centennial Elementary teacher Jane Williams is being honored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History as the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and now joins 53 teacher representatives vying for the national title. The Edmond Sun has more on Williams and the honor. 

Child advocacy center plans open house

The CARE Center, Oklahoma County's child advocacy center, will celebrate the completion of its campus remodel with an open house and cookout from noon to 2 p.m. July 12 at 1403 N Ashton Place. Free lunch will be served and a special ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 12:30 p.m.

Five buildings comprise the nonprofit's campus. CARE Center staff will guide campus tours. Guests can meet and greet on-site partners, staff and board members, and learn from Oklahoma County's experts in child abuse and neglect.

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Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the... Read more ›

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