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Educators wary of arming principals

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 2:29 PM
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 8:59 AM
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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Columbia County school principal Leann Fleischauer.

School officials in Columbia and Richmond counties aren’t ready to put guns in the hands of principals just yet.

Reaction was cautious and largely negative to Gov. Nathan Deal’s comment Wednesday that he expects to sign legislation allowing school administrators to carry firearms. Several educators described the push as a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn.

“My initial thought is that just a few years ago they took the paddle out of our hands, and now they’re gonna give us a gun?” said Columbia County School Superintendent Charles Nagle.

“It’s just unbelievable to me that anyone with responsibility would just arbitrarily have a knee-jerk reaction to arm administrators,” he said. “I trust me with a gun, but I wouldn’t trust me with a gun in a school.”

Schoolboard member David Dekle, in contrast, applauded the possibility of local schools having the option of allowing principals to carry guns.

“The only thing that might prevent a crazy person from coming in and killing somebody might be an adult with another gun,” Dekle said. “I would support it.”

Richmond County Board of Education President Venus Cain said she wouldn’t expect the board to pass such a measure because training can’t always prepare everyone to be able to use a lethal weapon in all situations.

“You can pull a gun and think it’s an appropriate time or feel threatened, but when you go back and look at it, you find out it’s really not a threat,” Cain said. “I just got some questions I feel need to be answered.”

Board member Alex Howard said Richmond County differs from other school systems in the state because all its middle and high schools have armed school safety officers already. He said giving a principal a gun would not solve the long-term problem at hand.

“I think there are other ways to prevent that,” Howard said. “Quite frankly, I don’t know if the principal would be able to save many students. The principal’s job is safety for the students. I don’t think the principal’s job is to hunt down someone.”

The response from some administrators in Columbia County was also one of caution.

As a former Army captain, Alternative School Principal Ja’Net Bishop is no stranger to carrying a gun.

“I would be a trained and qualified person to do so,” she said, “But I would not feel comfortable around children in that capacity. It’s a whole different world in the military compared to being on a school campus.”

Even though he has a concealed carry permit and owns several weapons, Greenbrier High School Principal Chris Segraves likewise worried about the amount of training needed for anyone to use a gun in a high-pressure situation.

“It sounds like a Western,” he said. “It’s just not as easy as passing legislation and saying, ‘OK, here you are, boys – go out and buy a Glock and holster it up.’ ”

Jason Moore, the principal at Cross Creek High School in Richmond County, said if the measure were to pass, principals would need extensive training about how to use the weapon and deal with an emergency situation.

“You’re already responsible for a lot of lives in that building before you even put education into the mix,” Moore said. “Your No. 1 priority is keeping your students and staff safe.”

Baker Place Elementary School Principal Leann Fleischauer said even with training she wouldn’t feel suited to carry a weapon.

“I’m not comfortable with it,” said the Columbia County principal. “I’ve never had a gun safety class. I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying a gun.”

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csrareader 01/16/13 - 03:56 pm
Obama's actions today are

Obama's actions today are nothing more than an effort to appear to be doing something. What did he say about the constant violence pouring out of Hollywood and the video game industry? Nothing. He's too chummy with those people to ask them to do anything.

Riverman1 01/16/13 - 06:50 pm
“I trust me with a gun, but I

“I trust me with a gun, but I wouldn’t trust me with a gun in a school.”

I don't get that remark one bit. Would Nagle trust himself to carry a gun in a mall or other place around people? That's what millions of safe and reliable people do everyday. Does Nagle feel school is such a unique and uncomfortable setting?

The facts are private gun carrying people are safer than law enforcement officers as far as collateral damage. Some people who should know better suggest there is something dangerous about teachers and principals with guns when there clearly isn't.

Fools_and_sages 01/16/13 - 06:01 pm
think about the thugs that fill the high schools in this area

Would it be a good idea to have one adult with one gun in a high school? The school's "gangstas" could easily gang up on up a principal (male or female) and take the gun and go on a shooting spree or leave the building and commit another crime with the gun. One person with a gun in a school full of people who aren't above criminal behavior just doesn't seem like a sound plan to me.

Sweet son
Sweet son 01/16/13 - 07:13 pm
Doesn't Necessarily have to be the Principal!

Many staff members of a school other than the principal might feel more comfortable with the responsibility so why not arm them. Also it should be a concealed carry situation so that the presence of a weapon wouldn't always be the topic of conversation. It wouldn't even be necessary that everyone (pupils and parents) know which faculty member was carrying a weapon!

augusta citizen
augusta citizen 01/16/13 - 08:33 pm

Riverman, Nagle's remark had me scratching my head too.

itsanotherday1 01/16/13 - 11:22 pm
Exactly Sweet Son

Just give them the option, with the caveat they must receive advanced training like LEO's do. After that no one but the principal, Sheriff's Dept, and maybe the BOE knows who is eligle to carry and who isn't. Maybe 10 people do, maybe 0, but the would be killer has no idea.

rational thought trumps emotion
rational thought trumps emotion 01/16/13 - 11:52 pm
“knee-jerk reaction”

There would be no need for a knee jerk reaction if school administrators would stop burying their heads in the sand. The need for campus police officer in every single Columbia County School has been here for quite a while. A well trained armed officer does much more than just wait for a school shooter and is very important to the school which they serve. The cost is easily negated by the reduction in safety issues, problems, etc. and just as assistant principals walk the halls for safety and security, campus police do it at ½ the salary and are far better prepared to deal with true emergencies.

Placing 1 campus police officer per school will certainly go a long way in improving the safety of our schools and our children. We have already has someone shot and killed in Harlem High School and many instances where the school police have prevented violence, drugs, trespassers, etc. on our campuses.

If you don't wont principals and teachers carrying guns then step up to the plate, make school security a real issue instead of the least spent out of everything and hire more campus police officers. Combine this with the use of technology, locked doors, cameras as needed, etc. to improve school safety instead of talking about it year after year and waiting until the next incident occurs here and then you will be forced by the community and parents to have a true knee jerk reaction. Hopefully no children or teachers will lose their lives before school administrators learn to take school safety seriously.

Techfan 01/17/13 - 08:58 am
Just surround the schools

Just surround the schools with razor wire and have a locked double entry system. It may take a while for students and staff to get in and out, but it should put the kibosh on any hanky panky, chicanery, tomfoolery, shenanigans, and monkey business.

seenitB4 01/17/13 - 09:10 am
We need them

Train them--arm them --put them in schools.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 01/17/13 - 10:36 am

Look at this attempt at deflection here from the story:

Baker Place Elementary School Principal Leann Fleischauer said even with training she wouldn’t feel suited to carry a weapon. “I’m not comfortable with it,” said the Columbia County principal. “I’ve never had a gun safety class. I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying a gun.”

How predicatable. Governor Deal's proposal (weak in my opinion) does not require principals to carry weapons. It merely would permit it. Go back and review a lesson plan, Ms. Fleischauer. Your statement to the press is an embarrassment.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 01/17/13 - 11:42 am

Upon reflection, I wonder whether I might have been a little harsh on Ms. Fleischauer above. Of course, Gov. Deal’s proposal does not require principals to carry guns in Georgia public schools; his proposal is to permit them to do so if agreeable and if proven qualified and competent.

However, think about the long-term unintended consequences: You will have many teachers and administrative staff willing and able to carry arms in school for protection of persons there. Likewise, you will have many more who do not desire to carry for personal reasons. Now, think about the selection process for administrative staff, and especially principals. If you have two candidates, equally qualified by education, training and experience; but one is willing and qualified to protect schoolchildren with a gun and the other is not, which one are you likely to select for promotion?

Ms. Fleischauer might have cause for concern for her upward mobility if she doesn't learn how to pack.

Riverman1 01/17/13 - 03:56 pm
Nagle set the tone and the

Nagle set the tone and the principals are going to carry the company line. I agree with LL, an armed principal is an asset and that fact should affect his/her career in a positive way over someone unarmed.

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