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Student petitioning to have teachers carry concealed weapons in school

Milan C-2 School District (KTVO)

A new generation of students are growing up with the threat of a school shooting.

The latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida ignited waves of response from students across the country.

Tornado drills, fire alarms, and for the generation of students now in school, active shooter training.

Dr. Ben Yocom, now in his fourth year of serving as superintendent in the Milan C-2 School District, says keeping students safe is a top priority.

“That’s been a concern of mine ever since I started, not only as a superintendent, but also as a teacher and a principal,” he said.

It’s on students' minds, too.

“I’m terrified to go to school because of what’s happening at schools in our area, and surrounding states. As a student, schools are supposed to be a place where you learn, and not if my classmates are going to snap and start shooting us," said freshman Hailie Weiseman.

She's taking a stand on ways she believes will keep her school safer.

“The petition I’m writing is to the governor of Missouri, saying that mental health awareness should go up and teachers, if they want to, should be able to take and pass a class that allows them to carry a concealed weapon to protect themselves and the students,” Weiseman said.

She told KTVO that creating the petition has started a way to begin the conversation on school safety, and she has gotten a variety of opinions.

“Some of the teachers also agree with both, some of the teachers don’t feel comfortable with guns, they agree with just the mental health awareness, and then some students also believe that mental health awareness should go up,” Weiseman said.

Yocom said he has been at school districts where arming teachers was considered.

“My former district was a very rural district in South Central Missouri, and I think the quickest response time was 37 minutes and here, the longest in the event of an emergency was like 47 seconds,” Yocom said. “We’re fortunate to have a great civic response in the town and also in the county as it pertains to our sheriff’s department.”

“As it pertains to my stance now, I’m philosophically against arming teachers, because, who do you choose to be armed, and that’s a pressure I don’t know I’d want to adhere to as an educator, nor would I ask my staff to do,” Yocom said.

Instead, he believes the district would be safer with a school resource officer.

“Someone that is a law enforcement trained individual, and for a variety of reasons, their association to the local law enforcement, their background knowledge to law enforcement situations, I think it would be much more responsible to have those individuals armed in the school than traditional teachers,” Yocom said. “I just don’t think that’s a good direction for education to go in my own opinion.”

In the area of mental health, Yocom said assistance from a social worker would be helpful in order to be both proactive and reactive to situations.

“My stance on mental health is that there are not enough mental health services in the area, rather than mental health education,” Yocom said. “Our area, specifically northeast Missouri is really underserved from a mental health perspective.”

Yocom says he appreciates Weiseman taking action on a cause she is passionate about.

“I’ve listened to students about virtually any type of concern or situation but when a student really takes it to the next level and researches a situation, that to me as a superintendent, so any cause where they obtain staff input, parental consent, and really look into it further, I think it’s a great thing for our kids,” Yocom said.

Listening to students' concerns is another way Yocom told KTVO he is watching out for students.

“We listen, depending on that on the nature of the concern we take it to the appropriate levels, we vet and research everything that is brought to us no matter whether it’s a rumor, unofficial, anything along those lines, because at the end of the day, as educators, no matter the system, we are here for the students,” Yocom said. “I not only try to live that myself as a superintendent but i also have my principals and teachers doing the same thing.”

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