Should teachers be armed at schools? ‘No way,’ expert tells Kentucky lawmakers

School Safety Consultant William Modzeleski addresses the panel during a joint meeting between the House Education committee and the Senate Education committee in Frankfort.
School Safety Consultant William Modzeleski addresses the panel during a joint meeting between the House Education committee and the Senate Education committee in Frankfort.

A national safety expert on Thursday drew applause from citizens at a legislative meeting when he told state lawmakers that there’s “no way” teachers should be armed at schools.

“It could be a disaster,” said William Modzeleski, a national school safety consultant. “People who are saying that teachers should have guns in schools haven’t been in schools.”

He said that the most important thing that school officials can do is to improve relationships between students and adults in the school.

Jon Akers, Executive Director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety, agreed with Modzeleski about arming teachers. Both spoke at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committee on school safety.

Teachers could soon be carrying concealed guns inside schools in Pike County under a proposal that was preliminarily approved Monday evening by the Pike County School Board. The idea of arming teachers has been controversial in the last few weeks with President Donald Trump backing the idea while others push for gun-control measures.

Lawmakers called for the school safety meeting following fatal school shootings this year in Western Kentucky and in Florida.

After the meeting, House Education Chair John Carney, R-Campbellsville, said he thought the next step would be to convene a task force with education and mental health professionals, parents, students and law enforcement to come up with new comprehensive approaches to keep students safer. Carney said he thinks Kentucky officials should make sure that all schools are abiding by current safety policies.

And he said one new helpful tool could be found with House Bill 604, filed by Rep. Will Coursey, D- Benton, that would put more counselors and mental health professionals in schools with 1,500 students or more and give certain students additional mental health services. Benton serves the area that includes Marshall County High School , where a fatal January shooting killed two and injured several students.

Modzeleski, a former Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, said metal detectors at schools have limited effectiveness.

He said metal detectors can be expensive, time-consuming, often need to be staffed by multiple people and can be circumvented by students.

“If people are intent, a metal detector is not going to deter them,” he said.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, said he took to heart Modzeleski’s message that schools needed help from parents and people in the community as part of a comprehensive program.

“We need to find ways to get more parents in the schools, to get children to feel like they are heard , that they are cared for, to get teachers more engaged with their students, to get principals more engaged with their parents,” Thomas said.

Several Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America members were in the overflow audience, but they did not speak during the meeting and there was not specific discussion or debate on gun control measures.

“We just think the proliferation of guns on any kind of campus is not the solution to the problem,” group member Diane Cahill of Lexington told the Herald-Leader.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears