Garden Valley School District's guns in school policy gains popularity

Posted at 10:17 PM, Feb 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-13 00:17:59-05

A controversial school policy that started here in Idaho is now gaining traction across the country. It involves guns in schools and arming staff in the case of an active shooter.
For nearly three years, the Garden Valley School District has made their policy clear to all. Signs in and around the small campus tell visitors "Trained staff members are legally armed, and can use whatever force necessary to protect students and staff."

"I don't want to bring a ruler to a gun fight," said Garden Valley superintendent and principal Greg Alexander.

In 2014, the rural school district approved a policy that allows guns in schools. The weapons are kept in safes scattered throughout the building and only a small number of trained faculty volunteers have access. With an average response time of 45 minutes for first responders, school leaders at Garden Valley say it's all about keeping kids safe in the event of an active shooter.

"It feels good to be part of a good positive program that is built around safety for students," said Alan Ward a member of the Garden Valley School Board.

The policy made national headlines when it when into effect and school leaders say they get calls all time from other districts wanting to do the same. Garden Valley School district has also given presentations at Idaho School Board Association meetings.

"Other districts are asking us from all over the United States about how do we do it," explained Alexander.

Mountain View School District in rural north central Idaho is just one district working to adopt a similar policy.

"We have a school in Elk City that has no law enforcement in town other than the Idaho County Sheriff's Office and if they're not there, it could take an hour to an hour and 45 minutes to respond and we just felt that that doesn't give our kids the safety that they need," Said Mike Dominguez a member of the Mountain View School Board.

Dominguez say after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that left 28 dead, they had to do something. And putting guns in willing district staff's hands and providing training is far cheaper than having school resource officers or police on campus.

"I don't know the exact dollar amount but I know it's substantially less than other options we looked at," said Dominguez.

Back in Garden Valley, a restorative justice officer from the Boise County Sheriff's Office now patrols the school building two days a week. A position that came after the guns in schools policy went into effect, but district leaders there say they're worried about what could happen when he's not there. For now, Garden Valley continues to revise and review their policy, including finding more ways to keep students and faculty safe. Mountain View School District hopes to formally adopt their policy at their next school board meeting later this month.