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Arming teachers considered in wake of public shootings

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Amarillo, TX -- Keeping our children safe in public schools is the driving force behind a renewed push for armed protection - but does "armed protection" mean police or professors?

Arming school employees is not a new concept - but a disturbing trend of school shootings in our nation has lent the idea new credence.  and some would be quick to point out it's far cheaper than on-campus police.

In an active shooter situation, seconds count - and that means one of the biggest factors in preventing bloodshed is response time.  So one rationale for arming school employees is to cut the response time to virtually zero.

WTAMU criminology professor and former police chief Dr. Harry Hueston illustrated how critical response time is, saying, "This police department at our university - one of the best-trained police departments in my career I've ever seen. If there's a shooter on the fourth floor of Old Main, the first cop here is going to be at least a minute to two minutes away - that's a fact of life."

Statistically speaking, having an armed police presence is one of the most effective ways to deter school violence - but that comes with a price tag.

For instance, there are liaison officers at secondary schools in the Amarillo Independent School District - leaving 37 elementary schools. Amarillo Police estimate the cost of posting a dedicated officer at each of those schools would total about $2.48 million a year -- and that estimate factors in salary, training, equipment, and a vehicle.

"You're still talking about a large stack of money that the taxpayers either through the school district or through the city or through some entity has to pay for," said Sergeant Brent Barbee of the Amarillo Police Department.

"You've heard putting police officers in schools is going to cost money. Okay ... so what's the life of a first, second, or third-grader worth?", asks Hueston.  "This is not a national thing. This is not a state law; we've got enough laws. What are these individuals in these towns and these school districts going to do? They're the ones that have to decide."

So far, no concrete legislation concerning the issue is on the table in Austin - but the debate continues to resurface.

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