Georgia District to Allow Some Non-Police Officers to Carry Guns on Campus

Georgia District to Allow Some Non-Police Officers to Carry Guns on Campus
A handgun in a holster in a file photo. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

A large school district in Georgia will allow some employees who are not certified police officers to carry guns on campus, but the policy does not include teachers and staff whose primary responsibility is supervising classrooms.

During a school board meeting on Thursday, members of the Cobb County Board of Education voted 4–2 to approve the policy, which is intended to hire more people and improve security in Georgia’s second-largest school district.

Schools in the state have been able to arm teachers and other personnel under a state law passed in 2014. After a 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a handful of Georgia’s 180 districts, all with much lower enrollments, had approved policies to arm non-officers on campus.

Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale told board members that the 106,000-student Cobb school district, among the nation’s 25 largest, is struggling to fill vacancies on its police force because the competition to hire officers is intense.

“If the board gave me a blank check and said go hire a school resource officer for every school in Cobb County, I could not do that,” Ragsdale said, explaining that the district only has 67 officers currently for its 114 schools.

Ragsdale is a supporter of hiring retired military and law enforcement officials to fill the positions, but he doesn’t back the idea of arming teachers. The latest measure would have originally allowed teachers to be approved to carry weapons if they had “unique qualifications,” but the superintendent removed that part of the proposal.

“I was not in favor of arming teachers, but I was in favor of exploring all possibilities of being able to enhance and increase the number of school resource officers that we have,” Ragsdale said during the district’s board meeting, FOX5 reported.

The policy says background checks, psychological evaluation, and training similar to certified school resource officers will be required for people taking on the job. Ron Storey, the school district’s police chief, will have the final say on applications.

“Quite simply, this policy gives us other opportunities to enhance and increase the number of school resource officers,” Ragsdale said.

The measure is explicitly a response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May, when a gunman opened fire at an elementary school, killing 19 students and two teachers.

Just before the vote, roughly a dozen protesters, including gun control activists, began shouting to “delay the vote,” prompting a board recess. When the board returned, four Republicans rejected the proposed delay and pushed through with the measure.

Jaha Howard, a Democratic board member, argued that there was no proof that the plan would work. Several others in opposition to the policy pointed to the Uvalde school shooting, during which armed and fully trained officers stood by for more than an hour as the gunman continued his rampage.

“I have yet to see any data or evidence that more gun-carrying professionals means our kids or staff will be safer,” Howard said, who was among protesters who tried to “delay the vote.”

Cobb County’s school board is split into four Republicans and three Democrats.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.