Debate over armed teachers hits home in Minneapolis

7:34 AM, Dec 20, 2012   |    comments
Seward Montessori School
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MINNEAPOLIS -- At Seward Montessori, a magnet school in Minneapolis, the flag's at half-staff in honor of the students and staff members who died at the mass school shooting in Connecticut.

But that very tragedy led a Seward teacher to bring a loaded handgun to school, according to police.

"The loaded handgun was locked in her locker," Sgt. William Palmer of the Minneapolis Police Dept. told KARE.

"It's still under investigation, but she gave the officer a statement that indicates this is related to the Connecticut incident."

Acting on a tip from another staff member, the school's principal followed protocol and called police to the school, where the students range from kindergarteners through to eighth graders.

Police confiscated the weapon from the locked locker. The Minneapolis Public Schools then placed the unnamed teacher, described as a female in her 50's, on administrative leave.

"We went into a code yellow for the day to make sure the kids were safe and secure," school district spokesman Stan Alleyne told KARE, referring to the school's lock down system.

"We feel good that, that no one was injured or harmed. We're happy that protocol was followed, and that someone provided a tip the school administration."

Alleyne said that, due to Minnesota's data privacy laws pertaining to school employees, the school district would not divulge the name of the staff member placed on leave. The school has signs posted at all entrances saying that guns are banned on the premises.

Sgt. Palmer also declined to identify the teacher because she hasn't been charged with any crimes.  He said she was not arrested, and that she may be charged with a misdemeanor for violating the conditions of her Minnesota conceal carry gun permit.

Seward parents were notified by the district via a robo call, prior to the news media being informed.

"It's just shocking why we would even have to be worried about that," Jerrie Skinaway, a Seward parent told KARE.

"I understand in the aftermath of what happened in Connecticut. But where was the person? What were they thinking?"

Skinaway said she thought the school took the correct action by bringing in the police and removing the teacher, at least temporarily, from school grounds.

Arming teachers

The incident in Minneapolis took place on a week when some are advocating arming teachers.  State Rep. Tony Cornish is reportedly considering offering such a bill during the 2013 legislative session.

Cornish could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but long-time gun owner rights advocate John Caile told KARE he would welcome such a move.

"I have a five-year-old granddaughter and thank God she goes to school at a private kindergarten in Texas where the staff are armed," Caile remarked.

"And I feel a lot better knowing that she's not going to die under a desk waiting to be executed."

Caile, who has been a firearms instructor for nearly 40 years, said he's doesn't buy into the argument that only licensed police officers with years of training should be allowed to carry weapons in schools.

"You don't need to be a Navy Seal to dissuade an attacker," he said. "As soon as these guys confront any type of armed resistance, time and time again, they either flee or -- more often -- kill themselves."

Minnesota law allows teachers with valid carry conceal gun permits to bring their weapons into school with the advance, written permission of the school principal or top administrator.

It's unknown how many teachers have taken advantage of that relatively obscure provision in the state law, because it is not tracked by local police agencies or the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

"No principal's ever come to me and asked 'Would you feel better if you had weapon.' The fact is it's the opposite," Tom Dooher, a Robbinsdale teacher who heads Education Minnesota, told KARE.

He said teachers are already maneuvering in overcrowded classrooms, and sometimes chaotic situations in the hallways when students are passing from class to class, or moving to the cafeteria.

"It, in fact, would change the whole environment of the school," Dooher remarked.

"Because you'd be more worried about the revolver on your hip and the kids around you than you are about teaching. You'd be distracted trying to protect and secure your weapon instead of securing kids and their learning experience."

(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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