CODY, Wyo. – Teachers in the Park County School District can now carry guns on school property, but school officials don’t yet know how many will choose to jump through the necessary hoops to do so.
“I think we’re going to wait and see who applies, how many apply, and we’re going to have to proceed cautiously from there. It’s a new idea in our district as far as implementing this so I think we’re going to proceed with caution and diligence, that we haven’t set a quota,” School Board Chairwoman Kelly Simone told Q2 News Wednesday.
Tuesday night, the Park County School Board voted 4-2 in favor of the policy, making the Cody district the second in Wyoming to allow teachers to carry guns in schools.
While the issue of arming teachers has been a national conversation since the Feb. 14 mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Park County administrators started planning this new policy months before.
Last year, the Wyoming Legislature passed a new law that gives local school boards the power to decide whether or not they want to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.
The new policy sets specific guidelines and training requirements before teachers can be armed. Teachers would have to volunteer, already have a Wyoming concealed carry permit, and complete 18 hours of training. Candidates would also have to have a certain amount of tenure before being considered. Even after they go through all the necessary steps, the school would still have to approve them.
Before the board voted on the policy, they voted to increase the number of training hours from 12 to 18 and comply with federal standards on pistol proficiency.
Simone said the board spent a lot of time vetting the new policy. A survey of the district’s 285 employees conducted last November indicated that 36 staff members would be willing to volunteer to carry a weapon, she said.
As for reaction from parents, students and people living in Cody, it has been mixed.
While many opposed the policy at school board meetings, a community poll showed otherwise, Simone said.
The poll was sent out to 2,400 members of the community. About half responded, and over 70 percent favored the policy.
"I think that as in the community at large, there has been a rather vocal minority that is scared of this and is opposed to this policy but I don’t think they represent the majority here,” said Bill Tallen, a former federal agent and outspoken supporter of the new policy. “I think that kids in this community, growing up in this culture, I mean, most kids aren’t really scared of guns. They’ve seen firearms before, their parents and their family and their friends are responsible gun owners."
The only other Wyoming school district to agree to arm some teachers is Evanston, which approved its policy last year.