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Central Coast teachers' unions oppose arming educators - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Central Coast teachers' unions oppose arming educators

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A proposal released Sunday by the White House is promising federal aid to fund firearm training for school staff who volunteer to be a part of the program. However, under California's Gun Free School Zone Act, most guns are prohibited in areas deemed school zones, and a new law also took effect January 1, 2018 banning school staff from bringing a firearm onto campus, even if the individual holds a concealed carry permit.

The White House proposal is part of a broader aim to make schools safer, which is a topic most, if not all, educators have on their minds.

"School should be safe. They should be a safe place to go, not a place where you're afraid," said Paso Robles Public Educators Executive Director Jim Lynett. "I think that this is the number one issue in everyone's minds. School safety is the number one issue."
 
Lynett said the district has been implementing safety measures like fencing around school campuses, considering more cameras around campus, and adding an armed guard from the Paso Robles Police Department at the high school. But arming teachers isn't on the district's agenda.

"How can you safely have more guns or any guns on campus? What happens if a student gets hold of a gun that a teacher has? You're not able to control it enough within the school setting," Lynett said.

He says while there are plans to increase the number of armed officers on school campuses, the teachers Lynett represents haven't shown interest in the new proposal.

"Every teacher that I have heard from is against it," he explained.

Representatives from teachers unions across the Central Coast echoed Lynett's statements.

"Let us teach," said Jose Segura, president of the Santa Maria Elementary Education Association.

Segura believes the proposed bill has an upside in increasing funding and attention on mental health care in America, but would like to see the proposed funds for guns for teachers go elsewhere.

"We want more books, we want more resources, we want more counselors and psychologists and therapists but we don't need to offset the problem of too many guns with more guns," Segura said.

However, safety is still the top priority, Segura said. Across his and other local districts, school staff and students are frequently trained on what to do in emergency situations. Segura said the training is essential for keeping schools safe and argues expecting teachers to be able to handle a gun well is asking more of teachers than is already expected. "Nobody wants to be a teacher who is defending students who harms a student," he explained.

The bill would also strengthen background checks and the reporting and tracking of crimes in order to prevent those with felonies from obtaining a gun through a proposal known as "Fix NICs" brought forward by Sen.John Cornyn of Texas.

KSBY News reached out to the National Rifle Association both locally and nationally but did not receive a response.

Both unions said the districts will have to have the conversation of arming teachers due to the proposal.

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