OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A bill that would have allowed public school districts across Oklahoma to decide whether to let teachers be armed in classrooms won't be granted a hearing in the Senate and likely is dormant this session, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Monday.
Sen. John Ford did not grant the bill a hearing in his committee Monday and said he doesn't expect it will be reassigned to another committee before a Thursday deadline. Ford, R-Bartlesville, said he deferred instead to the recommendations of a special 22-member school safety task force formed in the wake of last year's deadly school shooting in Newton, Conn.
“My approach on school safety and security was to look at what this task force recommended, and it made no recommendations on firearms in schools,” Ford told The Associated Press. “Therefore, I think we really need to focus on what the experts said to make our schools safe.”
The school safety task force recommended the creation of a school security institute and mental health training for school staffs, along with mandating school intruder drills at public schools, the establishment of a school security tip line to report suspicious activity and a requirement that any firearm discovered on school grounds be reported to law enforcement.
The bill to allow armed teachers in schools, which was opposed by many school officials because of safety and liability concerns, was well-supported in the House. It easily cleared the Public Safety Committee and breezed through the full House on a 68-23 vote.
Rep. Mark McCullough, the author of the bill, said he believes children in public schools are still vulnerable.
“It's very important to understand this: Our children are not protected in our schools from violent threats,” said McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “That's the elephant in the living room. We don't want to talk about it. We don't want to think about it.
“I think the public needs to chime in on whether they'd like to see this go forward.”
The Senate Education Committee did approve a separate proposal Monday that would let the state's private schools choose whether to allow concealed firearms on their grounds. That bill cleared the panel without opposition and now heads to the full Senate.
The measure would let people licensed to carry concealed or unconcealed guns take their weapons onto private school grounds if the school allows it. It also protects private schools from legal liability from that decision except for “acts of gross misconduct.”