Uinta County school trustees to take comments on firearms carry proposal

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By Sheila McGuire Uinta County Herald Via Wyoming News Exchange

EVANSTON — The Uinta County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees will hold a public forum on Tuesday, Jan. 30, to solicit public input on the proposed School Safety and Security policy that deals with concealed carry of firearms by school staff. That same topic was the focus of a lengthy discussion during the Jan. 9, board meeting.
Superintendent Ryan Thomas, along with three members of the committee that has been involved in putting together a rough draft of the policy, read through the documents and explained the committee’s process to the trustees and others in attendance.
Thomas said the committee is comprised of himself, North Elementary Principal Diane Gardner, Evanston High School Principal Merle Lester, Evanston Police Chief Jon Kirby, Uinta County Sheriff Doug Matthews, two other members of law enforcement, other staff members and EHS student body president Maggie Russell.
Although parents have been asked to participate, Thomas said, to this point, no parents invited have been able to attend the committee meetings. The committee has met twice and put in three to four hours going over the policy.
Thomas said the committee has been using guidance documents from the Wyoming Department of Education (DOE) and the Wyoming School Board Association (WSBA). The DOE document poses a series of questions that a district will need to answer in drafting a policy and the WSBA document is actually a sample policy that a district can use as a starting point. Using these two documents the committee has put together a draft policy, with a plan to refine it over the next couple of months.
The timeline that Thomas has proposed is for the public forum to be held on Jan. 30, with a first vote on the policy at the Tuesday, Feb. 13, board meeting. The second and final vote would then be held at the March 13 meeting, and the policy would be effective as of July 1, and in place for the next school year.
If enacted, the policy would apply to both certified and classified staff, and would provide for approved contracted staff to carry concealed firearms, either on their person or in a biometric lock box, in all buildings and facilities owned or leased by the district, including vehicles. In order for an applicant to be considered, he or she would need to have been employed with the district for at least five years, be in good standing, submit to a psychological examination, possess and maintain a Wyoming concealed carry permit and meet the policy training requirements.
As currently drafted, the training requirements are the minimum set forth in the statute passed by the Wyoming Legislature, namely 16 hours of live-fire handgun training and eight hours of scenario-based training using nonlethal firearms and ammunitions. Approved employees will then need to log an additional 12 hours of training each year.
The policy states that “in addition to, or as part of, the training requirements above, the employee shall participate in training specifically designed to address active shooter situations, hostage situations, and situations with armed students who present a threat to themselves or others.”
Trustee Jami Brackin said at one point there had been discussion about requiring more than the minimum number of training hours and asked if there was a 40-hour training course offered in Douglas for this purpose. Thomas and Lester said the program in Douglas is not for teachers and they were running into problems with finding the specific kind of training needed for school staff.
“There’s not a lot of training that talks specifically about this kind of stuff,” Lester said, adding that cost also a consideration. “Part of the thing, too, that we talked about is for people that really want to do this, if you require a 40-hour training, I’m looking at two or three thousand dollars out of my own pocket to do this, and then all the sudden you’ve just priced everybody out of it.”
When Brackin and trustee Kay Fackrell again brought up requiring more than the minimum training, Thomas said, “We talked about going beyond the minimum, but I really think law enforcement has kind of talked us down from that.”
This led to a discussion about costs and who would be responsible for the costs associated with the policy. Thomas said it would have to be a combination of district and personal expense or nobody would be able to afford it.
The draft policy states that the psychological exam, a biometric container or lock box and initial training would be borne by the district, and all other expenses, including the firearms, holsters, ammunition and annual training, would be the employee’s responsibility.
The policy details exactly what type of firearms and ammunition would be permitted, and specifies that no modifications to firearms would be allowed and that a “deep” concealed carry would be required.
Extensive discussion was held regarding whether biometric lock boxes would be permitted or whether everyone approved would be expected to carry the firearm on his or her person at all times. Thomas said the reasoning behind allowing the lock boxes is to accommodate gym or vocational teachers who may not have the ability to conceal a weapon in the clothes they’re wearing.
The confidentiality requirement of the policy was brought up, as the statute passed by the Wyoming Legislature requires confidentiality regarding who has been approved to conceal carry. Thomas acknowledged that maintaining confidentiality would be challenging.
There was also extensive discussion about whether employees would be required to carry every day if they were approved, how to handle employees who may be on medications and making a determination about impaired abilities, and what the repercussions would be for those who do not comply with all provisions in the policy. 

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