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Cobb school board OKs arming schools


During a Cobb County Board of Education meeting last week as protesters chanted “delay the vote”, the Board approved Superintendent Chris Ragsdale’s request to add armed, non-police security personnel to schools, a new policy billed as a way to improve safety in case of a mass shooting.

Ragsdale had initially presented the proposed policy to board members at its work session earlier Thursday saying they needed to increase security coverage across the district’s 114 schools. After concerns were raised, one of the provisions in the proposal that teachers could carry weapons if the superintendent determines that a teacher has “unique qualifications” to do so was removed because it alarmed teachers. 

Jeff Hubbard, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, said he heard from many concerned teachers about the provision. In response, Ragsdale removed that language before the vote.

The changes still did not sit well with many in attendance who allowed their displeasure and disagreement with this action by the board to be known. About 20 attendees used their time during the public comment section of the meeting to argue that increasing the number of guns in schools, and allowing employees who are not certified police officers to wield them, would not make schools safer and in fact put children and teachers in jeopardy. 

Others used the moment to shout their displeasure with a chant to stop the vote. Among those protesting were members of Everytown for Gun Safety, a pro-gun control group, and the Cobb chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Parents used the public comment time to express their concerns including Charles Andrew Cole, a father of two, who said the policy was yet another instance of officials reacting to societal issues with a stick, instead of a carrot. 

Alicia Bellezza-Watts, a parent of two Cobb students, was still concerned that security, who had not received the same training as police, would be present in her children’s schools. Said Belleza-Watts, “What information will we, the parents, have about these extra armed individuals that you are proposing to bring on campus? … and how are our children, who are already traumatized by the news of other elementary schools, supposed to know that someone else who they see is armed is safe, if they are not a school resource officer?”

As the Board prepared to vote, opponents staged a protest, chanting “delay the vote” and interrupted the meeting. The board went into recess for several minutes, but upon returning, Board Chair David Chastain shouted into his microphone and continued the vote amid the chaos. 

The policy for guns in schools was approved 4-2 along partisan lines before Chastain adjourned the meeting. The board’s four Republican members voted in favor, while Democrats voted against. 

Policy details

  • The policy gives the superintendent authority over the types and quantity of weapons and ammunition the employees can use.
  • The policy includes language requiring training in “judgment, pistol shooting, marksmanship, and a review of current laws relating to the use of force for the defense of self or others.” 
  • It also states, however, that the superintendent can waive certain training requirements if the person has already received training from prior law enforcement or military experience.
  • The new security will be subject to background checks, the policy says. Ragsdale said they would also receive psychological screening. Training and screening, he said, will ensure that “when a balloon pops, you’re not pulling your firearm.”

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