Magazine schools now home to Commissioned School Security Officers

Glenn Parrish
gparrish@boonevilledemocrat.com
An armed staff member intervenes in a school shooting scenario in a classroom in Magazine Saturday afternoon. Several district staff members underwent 60 hours of training to become commissioned school security officers last week.

A group of Magazine School District employees underwent 60 hours of training last week, culminating in them earning the title of Commissioned School Security Officer.

Each of those completing the training also finished with concealed carry and enhanced carry licenses.

Arming staff was an idea initially presented during Brett Bunch’s tenure as superintendent and was approved by the school board in August of 2018.

“The district has been talking about this for a long time. This isn’t something we into lightly,” said superintendent Dr. Beth Shumate. “There’s been a lot of thought.”

Shumate said when she became the superintendent in Magazine she and the school board crafted a six year plan on safety and security. Arming staff is only one step in the plan, she said.

“We didn’t focus just on getting armed staff. There’s a whole lot more to it. If we’re in an emergency response situation do we have all of our pieces and parts in place,” said Shumate. “We used the governor’s task force plan as a template.”

The entire training, which consisted of both classroom and field training, was completed on or very near to school district campus, including in multiple buildings.

The training was attended by Magazine Police Chief Anthony Rogers and the Logan County Sheriff’s Office was also represented.

Rogers admits he wasn’t sold on the idea initially, but he is now.

“I was very apprehensive when we talk about giving educators guns,” said Rogers. “I’m more comfortable with it (after) being with them and seeing the training with my own eyes.

“Given the training I was witness to, I feel 100 percent more confidence in the CSSOs than I was before.”

The field training scenarios are as realistic as they can be.

Instructors have to know if a teacher will take the means necessary to stop someone, even a kid, from killing kids.

Mental and physical stresses that accompany the training and thought pattern are also real.

“We want see how they react to the stress. We’re pushing them out of their comfort zone,” said Jon Hodoway of School Training Services, who provided the training.

“We don’t want anything to happen, but we want to be prepared if something does happen,” said Shumate. “Someone that attacks an elementary school is typically a different type of person from someone who attacks a high school. So you have to prepare in different ways.”

New high school principal Blake Beggs said the training was an eye-opener.

“I’ve gotten better with a handgun. What to expect, what to look for, and being a carrier, you’ve got to act a different way,” said Beggs.

“We’re a lot safer because we’re not a soft target for people,” said elementary school principal Karen Gipson. “I’ve always known as principal that if the worst day on the face of the earth came here that I would be the first one responding to it in the building. This gives us the tools to be able to protect the kids here.”

While it has happened, Hodoway and partner Scott Lewis said no staff members in Magazine decided the training really wasn’t for them once it began.

But the, perhaps, most logical beliefs as to which staff members are involved might be way off base.

“I will tell you we’re not looking for warriors, we’re looking for protectors. Both get the same results but they’re coming from a different place,” said Hodoway.

Exactly who is carrying will not be revealed by the district, a move endorsed by Hodoway, but, Shumate said, “the campus will be fully secure.”

What won’t be a secret is the fact there are armed staff on the school grounds as signage will clearly inform those entering the campus.

“We want people to know that we’re able to make sure that our students are safe under any circumstance,” said Shumate.

“Given our situation I think it’s a wonderful and fabulous idea. But we can’t get complacent we have to stay on top of training,” said Rogers. “It gives us that extra layer of security in protecting those lives that we are entrusted to educate.”

Funding for the project, Shumate said, came from a grant through the NRA and the entire cost for the program was covered without the use district’s operational funds.