BELOIT, Ohio (WKBN) – The West Branch School Board has been talking about the possibility of arming teachers for the past two years. On Thursday night, members invited the community to give their thoughts about the issue. Reactions were mixed.
Ten minutes into West Branch’s final board of education meeting for the year, Superintendent Tim Saxton presented topic two of the agenda — potentially arming teachers in the district.
To the almost 40 residents who showed up at the meeting, Saxton explained they had been asking teachers and staff about the topic for some time.
“It was pretty split in terms of what our staff believes — 50.7% yes and 49.3% no,” he said.
The community was also asked if they would support West Branch Local School’s board of education in allowing trained volunteers from school staff to be armed and respond in case of an active shooter situation. They got 556 people to respond.
“Yes 76.8%, no 15.4% and 7.8% unsure,” Saxton said.
He also read a number of comments left from teachers and community members on those surveys, which were also widely split, and showed a sample of what the process would look like.
Then came time for public comment. Several parents and even a former teacher took the mic for their allotted five minutes.
“If we can do something to prevent things from happening, then we should do it,” Elizabeth Mendel said.
“A person that cares for somebody that’s in danger, they will stand up,” Albert Connor said.
“I just feel very, very strongly that none of us went into education wanting to learn how to shoot and carry guns,” said Jill Berkmyer, a former teacher.
“To ask them to carry a gun and potentially shoot them is beyond anything I can think of,” Sarah Close said.
“As a combat vet, as a parent, I would want you to ask each teacher, each staff member,” said Bill Richards, who supports arming teachers. “It’s a cold, hard question to ask — ‘If you’re going to carry a gun in the school, God forbid the time comes, are you going to be able to pull that gun and shoot one of our kids?'”
No decision is being made on this topic at this time. The board simply wanted to give the community a chance to express their thoughts as board members continue to talk with teachers and staff about what’s right for their schools.