Campbell County trustees to vote on arming teachers

GILLETTE — Campbell County school trustees will consider a proposal on first reading Jan. 28 that would allow armed educators, carrying concealed weapons, in public schools to supplement safety measures already in place.

It’s taken more than a year of hearings, surveys and committee work to reach this point in the Campbell County School District, about three years after the Wyoming Legislature approved a statute setting out requirements for schools to enact the practice.

If ultimately approved — including a six-page armed educator policy and 22-page regulation broken into five sections — Campbell County would be the fourth school district in the state to do so.

“As we move forward with this process, the board and administration has really taken into account the comments from our community, and we’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” chairwoman Anne Ochs said.

“If you can think of any other way to be more transparent ... we’ll add that into the process. This is a community moving forward trying to address the safety needs of our students.”

On Tuesday night, administrators spoke about the process to get to this point and their plans to conduct three public hearings and a citizens survey before the school board considers the proposal on a second and final reading April 14, if the first reading is approved in two weeks.

The final public hearing on the proposal also will take place later that same night, before the school board meeting.

Some final work remains to complete the actual policy and regulations being proposed, including some formatting and legal advice. But administrators said the policy and regulation will be available Jan. 23, when the agenda for the board’s Jan. 28 public meeting is released.

Trustees and administrators spoke about their efforts to be transparent during the whole process and how they took the concerns and suggestions of the public — made in comments from previous listening sessions and online surveys — into account in drafting the proposal.

How we got here

Two committees, including an eight-member armed educator group and the district’s policy committee, have worked on the proposal since Sept. 12, when trustees gave administrators the go-ahead to draft a policy and regulation for armed educators.

“We’ve met a total of 10 times, each of those meetings not less than two hours and some of them extended longer than that,” Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer said.

The committees began with two policies already approved in two other school districts, Fremont County and Park County.

“We’ve had some good conversations, so we’re essentially finished,” Eisenhauer said.

Trustee Toni Bell served on the committees. “It’s a very diverse group of people,” she said. “We take it very serious, to the point where we talked about a word for over an hour: What does that word mean? How is it going to look?

“It’s incredible, the work that is happening on those committees. I’m real proud of the work that’s being done and I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback, and we will do our best to hear those and respond to them,” she said.

The regulations also contain copies of forms school personnel would need to fill out to apply to become an armed educator. That is unusual, he added, but will be included for transparency purposes.

“I know we’ve met or exceeded all of the expectations or requirements of the statute, but I believe we’ve also captured some of the concerns or some of the ideas that were presented in either some of the listening sessions, the survey, through board public comment,” Eisenhauer said. “We’ve addressed some of those concerns that folks have had as well.”

What will happen

If the board approves the proposal in its Jan. 28 meeting, it will be followed by three public hearings, the first two dates of which haven’t been set.

At that time, the school district also will launch a public survey of Campbell County residents on its website because not everyone can make it to a public meeting.

“We believe we’re going to give a lot of opportunity to the citizens of Campbell County to express their interest,” said Larry Reznicek, the district’s human resource manager.

He said the process also will meet legal requirements under the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act for adopting new rules. That includes a 45-day advance notice printed in the News Record, along with a statement of the terms and substance of the proposed rule, a description of the issues involved and where the public can obtain copies of the proposed rule and the time, place and manner where people may present their views on the proposal.

District Superintendent Alex Ayers also pointed out that the district isn’t required to have three public hearings. It’s normal practice is to have two such hearings before adopting a new policy.

“It’s a situation where we could have one (hearing),” he said. “But I think giving that extra opportunity for people to speak will be well received.”