Survey shows teachers want more officers in schools

Employees of Seymour Community School Corp. prefer the district hire additional safety resource officers to make schools safer, a survey showed.

The results, however, also indicate many think allowing certain teachers and staff who are trained to carry guns at school would make schools safer overall.

A total of 347 out of 650 certified teachers, or 53 percent, participated in the anonymous and voluntary online survey last month conducted by the administration.

Classified staff also could participate, and 209 out of 300 of them, or around 70 percent, filled out the survey, said Assistant Superintendent Brandon Harpe.

“We had a good mix across all the buildings,” he said.

The survey asked questions to gauge employees’ feelings on different safety options, including adding more school resource officers, hiring armed or unarmed security guards, having metal detectors, purchasing and installing biometric safes to give employees access to a gun during the school day and arming and training staff to carry a gun at school.

“By far, the highest priority would be to hire additional SROs,” Harpe said. A total of 225 people put that option as their top choice to make schools safer.

Seymour currently has three school resource officers — one at Seymour High School, one at Seymour Middle School and one for all five elementary schools.

The district pays for the officers and for security equipment through the state Secure School Safety Grant and the federal Safe Haven Grant, both of which require matching funds from the school corporation. 

The Secure School Safety Grant has provided $250,000 to the corporation since 2014 to help pay the salary of an SRO and to purchase safety equipment, including new security cameras, panic alarms and intercom systems for the schools, while the Safe Haven Grant has funded $60,000 since 2016 for SROs salaries. It also requires matching funds from the district, said Diane Altemeyer, director of federal programs.

Harpe said the lowest priority indicated on the survey was to arm staff.

According to survey results, 165 participants opposed or strongly opposed having teachers and staff carry guns at school, and 128 favored or strongly favored the option. There were 54 responses that were in the middle, Harpe said.

But if certain teachers could carry guns at school, 132 respondents said it would make schools safer, 104 said they would be about as safe as they are now and 92 said schools would be less safe, the survey showed.

The survey came at the request of trustee Jeff Joray, who is in favor of allowing some teachers and staff to be armed during school hours if they are properly trained and licensed to do so.

If the district policy was changed to allow teachers and staff to carry guns at school, with the proper training, 197 respondents said they would not want to, and 111 said they would.

Responses were split on whether people thought arming teachers would limit the number of victims in a violent situation. A total of 139 people said they thought the measure would not be effective, while 138 said it would.

The results of the survey were discussed during an executive meeting of the school board trustees prior to the regular monthly meeting May 8.

Trustee Nancy Franke, who also is a teacher at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Columbus, said she continues to be against arming teachers at this time, but she is in favor of continuing to look at all of the options.

“There are no easy answers,” she said. “Across the state, we have school officials, teachers and staff who are most concerned for the safety of our children and will work toward doing everything feasibly possible to make sure we provide the safest circumstances possible for our students.”

Although no changes are being made immediately, Harpe said the results of the survey will be a part of the corporation’s overall safety report and be used to help make decisions on additions or changes in the future.

“Our safety plans are continuously evaluated and updated, and our staff is well-trained,” Harpe said. “Their opinions and experiences are of great value in assessing school safety.”