Cody school board approves concealed carry policy to arm staff

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On a 4-2 vote Tuesday night, Cody school board trustees approved a policy allowing trained staff to carry concealed firearms in schools.

The final vote on Policy CKA came after months of discussion, public meetings and two previous readings.

“I think that it is a good policy,” said Jenni Rosencranse, who serves on the Park County School District No. 6 Board of Trustees, saying “countless hours” had been spent on the policy.

Trustees Rosencranse, Kelly Simone, Scott Weber and William Struemke voted in favor of the policy; trustees Stefanie Bell and Tom Keegan opposed it.

Cody school board members differed on whether guns in schools would make kids safer.

Trustee Scott Weber said the first duty of a school board member is the safety of students and staff. Weber said he’s watched students in recent months saying they’re afraid to go to school, and “we’re going to fix that tonight.”

“We will no longer have any children scared at Cody schools. I will guarantee that myself,” he said later.

Weber said ultimately, he would like to see school sentinels in all schools in Park County School District No. 6, and have sentinels teamed with school resource officers in every school.

“I want the gun-free zone signs down, and I want us to be an armed campus,” he said.

Weber said Cody’s policy is a “national model policy” and he commended the board’s hard work on every aspect. He also said law enforcement is “behind this 100 percent.”

The concealed carry policy is “90 percent deterrent,” Weber added.

“There has never been an armed school that has been breached, and there never will be, because criminals are cowards, they don’t want to face opposition,” Weber said.

Trustee Keegan said he believes Cody schools will be less safe by introducing guns. Kids could potentially access the firearms, he said.

“We’re teaching them that guns solve problems, rather than us solving problems,” Keegan said. “We’re not solving a problem — we’re making more problems.”

He said academics in Cody schools are going to suffer as a result.

“Those people are no longer going to be just teaching, they’re also going to be carrying a gun and doing whatever a school sentinel does,” Keegan said. “We can expect less from our teachers as well. That’s part of what we get out of this deal.”

Trustee Bell said she believes the best solution to keeping kids and schools safe is a full cooperative effort with law enforcement and the community.

“This is really, in my mind, a last resort, and so I do not support it,” Bell said of Policy CKA.

Board chair Kelly Simone said the policy has “dominated so much of my time and energy” and that she has deliberated, weighed and researched the policy and thought about it from all sides. Simone said she’s listened to many people with different opinions on the issue, and she respects all of them.

She said she supports having more school resource officers, but funding is an obstacle.

Before voting in favor of the policy, Simone promised to do due diligence on all applicants and training.

“I personally just want to give my reassurance that I am going to advocate for good training, to fully vet applicants that come forward,” she said.

Trustee Rosencranse also said she will be “thoughtful and critical of each applicant if and when they come forward.”

She said her own children go to school in Park County School District No. 6.

“I don’t take this decision lightly at all,” Rosencranse said. “I do think that this is the option we have at this time.”

She said she’s not confident the district can find funding for other options, and she will not stand in anyone’s way to pursue them.

The board will direct district staff to make Policy CKA a separate line item in the budget, so it can be tracked for different costs and so there’s transparency, Rosencranse said.

Trustee Struemke said he appreciated everybody’s involvement in the process, and he respects fellow trustees, even if he doesn’t always agree with them.

“ ...  I think we’re all going to have to vote our own conscience,” he said.

Prior to the final vote Tuesday night, trustees approved several amendments to Policy CKA, including adding additional hours of training. The district will require a minimum of 18 hours of recurring training each year with a board-approved trainer.

The board also approved an amendment requiring the school board to review Policy CKA in two years. Simone said the intent isn’t to bind future boards, but to ensure there’s a comprehensive review of the policy.

“We know this is a topic nationally, statewide and obviously locally,” Simone said.

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