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Gun classes for Galt teachers?

Police chief suggested idea after Sandy Hook massacre in December

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Galt teachers may soon be trained to use and recognize different types of guns in a class sponsored by the Galt Police Department.

The voluntary gun safety and awareness course is in response to December's deadly Newtown, Conn., school shooting, according to Superintendent Karen Schauer of the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District.

The idea came from Galt Police Chief William Bowen, she said.

Mike McCune, whose daughter attends Liberty Ranch High School in Galt, said he supports the "proactive" approach the police department is taking.

"I believe training and awareness can prevent future accidental discharge of a firearm," he said, adding that he does not support mandated training. "I believe most of the Galt community will embrace such a volunteer program, especially parents who continually worry about their child's safety while at school."

Lodi Unified School District Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer said the idea to offer a similar class to Lodi teachers has not come up.

Galt's course will help employees gain a better understanding of:

  • Different types of guns, so they could more accurately inform law enforcement authorities should the need arise.
  • Handling a gun. For example, if a situation occurs where a gun is dropped, the employee would know how to safely pick it up, Schauer said.
  • Fighting a shooter, should they choose to do so because they could not run or hide.

It will be taught by police shooting range staff at a yet-to-be-determined date.

The effort is in addition to safety drills planned with police over the next two months.

The course, which will also be offered to high school district teachers, is up for a vote on Wednesday's Galt Joint Union Elementary School District board's agenda. Before proceeding to determine employee interest in the training, administrators need the board of trustees' approval, Schauer said.

Employees who provided feedback to Schauer personally includes certificated and classified union leaders and administrators. The employees feel this information can empower people and make them feel more comfortable at work, Schauer said.

"A voluntary training gives staff a choice for what they feel would be best for them regarding the participation or not with gun awareness and safety training," Schauer said.

Bowen spoke to Schauer twice about this training possibility; the first time was right after the shooting death of Officer Kevin Tonn, who was killed in the line of duty last month.

"At that time, I was unsure whether or not this training was warranted. However, after the chief spoke to me a second time, I spoke to a sampling of classified, certificated and administrative employees. The majority ... felt that this voluntary training would be valued by employees who wanted this information," Schauer said.

"I am confident that Chief Bowen has informed himself well on the best practices in campus security as well as preparedness in the event of an armed assault on a school," said Kevin Papineau, Galt elementary school board president and a parent in the district. "As a board member and a parent I appreciate the police department's efforts to assist us in both prevention of, and preparation for, these scenarios as the harsh reality is no prevention strategy can be guaranteed."

Bowen could not be reached for comment, and school board members declined to discuss the item publicly before Wednesday's meeting.

Similar firearm safety courses are being offered throughout the country as people have a heightened awareness in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

For example, the Utah Shooting Sports Council waived its $50 fee on for educators wanting to participate in training sessions that would let them gain permits to carry concealed weapons. More than half of the roughly 400 education professionals that showed an interest in December had to be turned away because there was not enough room in the course.

Also last month, a Florida gun safety instructor said he'd provide training for free to any educator interested.

In Maine, one legislator wants to require public high schools offer a firearm safety and handling course that would be optional for students.

In the end, Schauer compares the need for training courses like these to other changes in a world where safety considerations must be re-thought. When she travels to Washington, D.C. this week, she will prepare for the airport security requirements that resulted from Sept. 11, 2001.

"As in our nation's airports, we need to examine possible adjustments with current school safety practices so that we are as prepared as possible for any safety condition — including the possibility of a shooter on any school campus," she said. "Yes, it is unfortunate that we must think about such issues in our public schools, but it is also necessary to be fully prepared."

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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