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Arming Oklahoma Teachers: Gun Policy For Educators

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Oklahoma began arming teachers three years ago. The real debate now is - how easy should it be to give a teacher a gun?

Drew Rhodes teaches government at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City.

"Out of the blue, on the intercom, they just say, 'lockdown procedures,'" Rhodes said. "I have this thing I do where I go, 'let's go.'

"The last thing I want is to be caught with my guard down."
 
A snap back to the new devastating reality of Drew Rhodes' dream job  - teaching - while dealing with the increasing threat of school shootings.
 
The government teacher stood ready to confront a potential shooter - putting himself between the students and the door of his classroom during a recent lockdown at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City.

"Normally, I just have a chair, but I just so happened to have a desk that broke, and there was a metal pipe," he said. "So I said, might as well fill my hands up."

Educate Oklahoma

Rhodes did not have to defend anyone that day. Officers made an arrest, confiscating the gun, before any harm could be done. It's incidents like this that are putting the focus on arming teachers.

Schools in Oklahoma have allowed teachers to carry guns since 2015. The state department of education doesn't track those schools, but we surveyed the districts and found 21 have adopted gun policies. 

Todd Hallman - was among the first in the state to get trained and certified to carry at school. 

"Honestly, I didn't know whether it would fly or not," he said. "I mean, I really figured there would be mixed emotions. 

"I'm here to teach the kids, and I'm here to protect them."  

The concept is not so clear cut for everyone.

Homeland Security Director Kim Carter says some districts have admittedly overlooked policy and procedure for how to handle guns in the classroom.

"We don't try to encourage the schools one way or the other," said Kim Carter, Homeland Security. The director also said training is of the highest importance.

Representative Jeff Coody, though, recently proposed legislation to reduce the state's training requirements. 

"I think in a worst case scenario, protection on the side of the good guys is much preferable to nothing," Coody said. 

He said the proposal is aimed at give districts more control - but the bill didn't make it.

To the relief of some teachers like Drew Rhodes.

"If you want to arm teachers, arm us with the funding we need to help these kids," the teacher said. "Because at the end of the day, the most powerful weapon ever known is education."

The State Department of Educations said 95 firearms incidents have happened at Oklahoma schools over the last three years. Two of them resulted in someone hurt.

Six involved an elementary school student which 15 involved kids in middle school.

In more than two-thirds of the incidents, the student was suspended for the remainder of the school year.

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