MOULTRIE – In light of Lt. Gov. Burt Jones’ announcement last month that he wants to pay teachers $10,000 a year to carry guns in schools, the Colquitt County School System, a state representative and parent, and a student were asked to weigh-in on whether it should be considered for Colquitt County schools.
“At this time, all we can share is that Colquitt County School District will continue to work directly with local law enforcement to protect all students and staff. We rely heavily on their expertise and guidance in coordination with our Director of School Safety, who is also retired law enforcement,” said Angela Hobby, chief officer of district and employee relations of the Colquitt County School District.
Key components of the proposed legislation, outlined on a one-sheet that was linked on Jones’ Facebook page, are new legislation to augment reforms the General Assembly passed in recent years in safety training for teachers, expanding grant programs for hiring POST-certified security personnel, school safety plans and empowering the local school systems to decide whether their teachers are allowed to carry firearms on their campuses. Other components in the proposal include state-funded firearms training programs that are tailored to the specific education environment and a dedicated state fund that will complete the firearms training course and receive a certificate. The one-sheet also emphasized that participation would be entirely voluntary.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” said Makayla Walls, 18, who was a student. “I would not feel safe at school if I knew teachers had guns.”
She also said that she thought the money could be better spent on increasing the steps to get a gun in general.
Jones touted the proposal in an interview on the Mark Arum Show on the 95.5 WSB radio station.
“The proposal’s a grant program that we’re talking about using state dollars to school systems that would apply and they can use the money to either pay off-duty police officers, you know, licensed peace officers, or the school system could have someone that is on staff to go through the proper training and be licensed to handle a measure and could be a school teacher, could be an administrator or whatever,” he said. “It would be up to the local school boards to determine that.”
He also stated that the proposal was not going to be set up where “rank and file” teachers can go through the training and automatically qualify for the stipend. He said the school system could either hire an officer or they could choose a staff member.
Chas Cannon, Colquitt County administrator and state representative, said that he believed the grant should be considered by Colquitt County schools, if made available, because he has two girls in the school system and he would want as many deterrents as possible to a criminal that could walk in and threaten their safety.
“I also like that it appears the decision will be made on a local level,” Cannon said. “I appreciate that. It’s not a blanket approach. Just as there is now, I trust that there will be coordination between the Sheriff’s Office (SROs) and the BOE on how best to employ these trained personnel. I see it as offering more tools to combat what is unfortunately something that we as leaders have to proactively deal with in this day and age.
“My girls have grown up around guns and firearms and know how to use them,” he said. “I think they would feel more comfortable knowing that there are more people at their school who can protect them if and when the need arises.”
According to a press release from the lieutenant governor’s office, the proposed legislation is expected to be introduced during the 2024 Legislative Session, which starts in January.