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Iberia panel to discuss arming school staff

Iberia panel to discuss arming school staff

February 24th, 2018 by Allen Fennewald in Local News

The Iberia R-5 School District will hold a public meeting March 6 to discuss the district's consideration of a school protection officer (SPO) policy and implementing armed staff members in an attempt to better protect students in the event of a dangerous intruder.

The meeting is set at 6:30 p.m. in the Iberia High School gymnasium, 201 Pemberton Road in Iberia.

Superintendent Lyndel Whittle said the Iberia Board of Education has been considering a policy approving the possible use of SPOs — teachers and staff members certified to carry a concealed weapons — on campus to protect students against dangerous situations, such as the active shooter who killed 17 people Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

"The board wanted to get input from different groups of people," Whittle said. "We've already surveyed staff, we have a survey out in public now, but they wanted to provide an opportunity for the public to present comments that they had."

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Whittle said he would discontinue the district's public survey around noon today. The survey can be accessed at iberia.k12.mo.us/article/39923. Survey results will be presented to board members at the regular meeting that begins 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Iberia High School Room 108. The board will also hear from security training professionals.

According to the survey, SPOs might be needed if law enforcement is not nearby during an armed intruder situation, when a fast response is necessary to protect students and staff members.

Whittle said the board will consider the public survey and comments made at the public meeting in deciding whether to implement an SPO policy in the rural school district with 725 students and 110 employees located east of Lake of the Ozarks in Miller County.

"The board members are still waiting to hear from the public," the superintendent said. "I'm sure they all have their own personal views on it, but they take their roles as representatives of the community very seriously, so they'll be using (the meeting) as one of the factors in deciding how to vote, I'm sure."

Whittle previously said most of the district's teachers surveyed did not feel they would make good SPOs, but a few staff members indicated they would be interested in completing SPO training. SPO applicants would be screened to determine if they are mentally and emotionally capable of serving in the role of protecting students with a concealed firearm.

John Warner, emergency planning coordinator of the Missouri School Boards' Association, said Iberia would be the first school district in the state to implement an SPO.

The district also is considering security training through investigation and security company Shield Solutions. Other Missouri school districts have already participated in Shield Solutions' Critical Incident Response course and School Employee Firearms Training program, which prepare qualified employees to carry concealed firearms and cover them under the company's liability insurance.