(TNS) — North Carolinians are calling on state leaders to make schools safer and pay teachers more.
State legislators have proposed a bill that may do both — if the teacher agrees to get police training.
A trio of Republican legislators want to set aside $9 million for the "School Security Act of 2018," which would offer a 5 percent salary boost to up to 3,000 teachers who complete the state's training programs and become school resource officers. A school resource officer is a certified law enforcement officer who is permanently assigned to provide coverage to a school or a set of schools.
More than $4.7 million would go to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to establish the "Teacher Resource Officer Grant Program," and the rest would go toward salary supplements. The bill was proposed Thursday by Republican state Sens. Warren Daniel, Ralph Hise and Dan Bishop.
If the teacher qualifies and successfully completes training to become a "teacher resource officer," he or she "shall have the same powers as municipal and county police officers to make arrests for both felonies and misdemeanors and to charge for infractions."
Schools could determine whether their teacher-resource officers would carry firearms. And a teacher's identity as a school resource officer would be confidential under state law, meaning the public wouldn't know which teachers doubled as officers.
Daniel said in an email that the bill "solves the two major personnel problems associated with implementing public school security — the high cost of putting an adequate number of SROs in every school and the shortage of SRO candidates to apply for the positions."
"It also addresses law enforcement’s concerns about having armed teachers who are not adequately trained to handle firearms and deal with emergency situations," Daniel said. "The Sheriff’s Association was consulted in the drafting of the bill and they made a number of helpful suggestions."
The idea was immediately panned by Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
"This is such a bad idea," Jewell said. "NCAE opposes arming our teachers. We should be armed with resources to help our students be successful."
How it would work
Teachers could apply to the program through their school, which would have discretion over who qualifies. Teachers who have at least two years of experience in the military or as a law enforcement officer would get precedence.
A teacher would have to go through the same training that school resource officers complete, and, at least once every five years, complete training "to respond to an active shooter situation," the bill says.
The state would provide up to two weeks of additional paid leave to all teachers in the training program.
The N.C. DPI would establish the program and grant criteria by Aug. 1, 2018, accept applications until Nov. 1 and award grants no later than Dec. 31. As for private and charter schools, the bill authorizes teachers who have a concealed handgun permit to carry it at the school — so long as school administrators and a local law enforcement agency give written permission.
The North Carolina Justice Academy requires would-be school resource officers to complete 400 hours of training to become certified, and trainees must be sworn members of a law enforcement agency within the state of North Carolina.
Specht: 919-829-4870 @AndySpecht
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