By Barry L. Paschal
Columbia County school officials were cautious and largely negative in reactions to Gov. Nathan Deal’s comment Wednesday that he expects to sign legislation allowing school administrators to carry firearms.
Several educators described the push as a “knee-jerk reaction” to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn.
“My initial thought is that just a few years ago they took the paddle out of our hands, and now they’re gonna give us a gun?” said School Superintendent Charles Nagle.
“It’s just unbelievable to me that anyone with responsibility would just arbitrarily have a knee-jerk reaction to arm administrators,” he said. “I trust me with a gun, but I wouldn’t trust me with a gun in a school.”
School Board member David Dekle, in contrast, applauded the possibility of local schools having the option of allowing principals to carry guns.
“The only thing that might prevent a crazy person from coming in and killing somebody might be an adult with another gun,” Dekle said. “I would support it.”
The response from administrators was more cautious.
As a former Army captain, Alternative School Principal Ja’Net Bishop is no stranger to carrying a gun.
“I would be a trained and qualified person to do so,” she said, “But I would not feel comfortable around children in that capacity. It’s a whole different world in the military compared to being on a school campus.”
Harlem Middle School Principal Carla Shelton also was a captain in the Army, serving as an air defense artillery officer. She said the need for training would be paramount.
“I’m very comfortable carrying a gun,” Shelton said. “But it’s not just a matter of let me go buy one and issue it.”
Even though he has a concealed carry permit and owns several weapons, Greenbrier High School Principal Chris Segraves likewise worried about the amount of training needed for anyone to use a gun in a high-pressure situation.
“It sounds like a western,” he said. “It’s just not as easy as passing legislation and saying, ‘OK, here you are, boys – go out and buy a Glock and holster it up.”
Citizens routinely take for granted the amount of training law enforcement agencies, including the school system’s public safety officers, undergo to qualify to carry firearms, Segraves said.
“You’re talking about people who’ve gone into the field of education, not the field of law enforcement,” he said.
Place Elementary School Principal Leann Fleischauer said she’d be in that camp.
“I’m not comfortable with it,” said said. “I’ve never had a gun safety class. I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying a gun.”
Nagle also dismissed President Obama’s plan to provide grants for schools to hire armed officers.
“That grant was $50 million. Divide that by 50 states and that’s a million per state. You divide that million dollars we’ll get in Georgia by 180 school systems, and that won’t be enough to buy a bullet.”