2 St. Louis area school districts train and arm teachers

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:56 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - In the wake of the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, safety is top of mind for school districts across the country, as well as here in the St. Louis area. Missouri is one of ten or so states that allow school districts to train and arm school personnel.

The Sunrise R-9 School District in southern Jefferson County was the first in the St. Louis region to choose to equip teachers and other district employees with firearms. Armand Spurgin said the district has trained and armed employees for 5 years.

“We knew that we had to do something to mitigate our risk being in a small rural school,” he said.

Sunrise School is a K-through-8 school in the Valle Mines area. Spurgin said he was told it could take 20 to 30 minutes for a deputy to arrive if there was a school shooting.

He said teachers and other employees who volunteer for the program receive 40 hours of training initially and 24 hours of retraining each year. And that’s only if they can pass the screening to be accepted.

“There’s a lot that goes into this, to make sure that you’re you’re a safe individual and your individual can psychologically handle it,” said Spurgin.

Shield Solutions, LLC out of West Plains, Missouri provides the training for the district. The same company also trains employees in the St. Clair R-XII school district in Franklin County.

St. Clair R-XII Superintendent Dr. Kyle Kruse said there haven’t been any incidents to make use of the firearms training his employees have received. But he said the interest in the program hasn’t waned.

“We have not had difficulties finding people willing to participate,” he said.

Kruse said his employees also receive extensive training, but that arming school employees is just one of their layers of security.

“We’ve upgraded the entrances at all of our buildings, and now there are secure vestibules where visitors can come in and they’re not able to access student areas without being buzzed on through. We have safety films on those glass areas and they’re not easy to get through,” he said.

Kruse said the high school continues to have a school resource officer, but that the district also hired a director of security.

Through a program set up by the State of Missouri, 24 school districts have sent school personnel through state-sponsored training to become school protection officers. Currently, 52 people have completed the training, which includes 112 hours of training with an 18-hour annual refresher course. The training is conducted at one of the state’s police academies.