House committee passes bill that would allow school boards to designate teachers as protection officers

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – County school boards would have the option of allowing teachers to serve as armed school protective officers in a bill passed Thursday night by the House Education Committee.

Committee members discussed HB 2364 for more than 4 hours in two different sessions before approving the bill by a 16-7 vote.

Todd Longanacre

Part of the discussion was emotional, focusing on school shootings and whether teachers should be asked to carry a gun.

“Our position is let the teachers teach,” American Federation of Teachers-WV President Fred Albert told the committee. “Let our (trained officers) take care of security in the school.”

The bill states that the school district could designate one or more elementary or secondary school teachers as protective officers. It would be voluntary. The chosen person will have to hold a concealed carry permit and undergo training.

Proponents said the bill would create additional protection in schools that are not currently assigned school resource officers from local police departments.

Doug Smith

“We know not all schools have a resource officer, so we know not all schools are protected,” said Delegate Doug Smith, R-Mercer, sponsor of the bill.

Delegate Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier, himself a teacher, said the bill is an option school boards can choose.

“It just provides school boards with the ability to mitigate any risks that may arise,” Longanacre said.

But delegate Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, also a teacher, said his colleagues wanted the experts to deal with protection.

Cody Thompson

“I know many, many, many teachers and that’s something the vast majority of us don’t want. There may be some who do, but very, very, very few,” Thompson said.

The committee’s Republican majority rejected proposed amendments that would have required additional background checks and psychological exams for those who volunteer, require school boards to obtain additional insurance, and require a countywide vote to put protection plan in place.

The measure then goes to the House Judiciary Committee for review.