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New legislation could make arming teachers a statewide reality in Washington

SEATTLE -- Legislation aimed at arming teachers in Washington state was introduced much to the ire of Gov. Jay Inslee and the state superintendent of public instruction who are strongly against the idea.

State Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-31st District, said Wednesday that his bill isn't focused on arming teachers but instead establishes a training program for how to respond in an emergency.

"This is a totally voluntary program. Nobody is mandating anybody to carry guns," Fortunato said. "If they choose to do so, it's up to local districts on how they want to proceed with it."

He also added, "I don't want guns in school! However, what can we do to protect our children's lives? And if this is what it takes that's what it takes."

A Washington school district already allows armed staff members

The Toppenish School District near Yakima has been arming its staff since 2014, sparked primarily by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

"I want to make it very clear. We have no teachers that are armed in the Toppenish School District. Administrators, directors and supervisors only," said Toppenish School District Superintendent John Cerna.

Cerna said there are nearly 20 school administrators in the district that carry concealed weapons.  He said they train twice a month.

"We're either on the range or the classroom going through scenarios working through those things," Cerna said.

Sophomore Isabela Laddrut told Q13 News knowing that fact does put them at ease. "I feel a lot more safe because I know if something does happen we will have security."

Even though it seems to be working for Toppenish, it isn't something Gov. Inslee, the state superintendent of public instruction or even the Washington Education Association agrees with.

"Those folks do not want their first-grade teachers carrying a Glock on their hip because their job is to educate," Inslee said.

"They should not be armed," echoed state Superintendent Chris Reykdal. "You're talking about a society where these folks are trained professionally to do teaching and learning. Law enforcement is trained to use deadly force."

What kind of training do teachers go through?

The Toppenish School District uses a security consulting company to teach something called "gap time." It is supposed to train teachers and school officials what to do between the time a shooting begins until police arrive.

"We can't take away the human element of protection," said Jon Ladines with Force Dynamics Security Consulting. "You can have all the door locks you want but if you don't have that human element with someone who is prepared to stand in that gap then we're gonna keep continuing to see the same results."

The training isn't heavily focused on arming teachers. But it is part of it.

"For those of you thinking a teacher doesn't have the ability to shoot like a police officer-- our qualifications are they have to have a 100% qualification or they don't carry a firearm. And that's on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper and if they don't have all 50 rounds inside that small object they do not carry," Ladines explained.