Lindsey Paull, a first-grade teacher in Burlington Schools in Iowa, has taken a stand against arming teachers and says officials have other ways to stem school violence.
Courtesy of Lindsey Paull

PHOENIX — The White House earlier this week proposed providing "rigorous firearm training" to qualified school personnel, furthering the polarizing national debate over whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in school.

In Florida, site of last month's massacre that left 17 dead, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a set of new gun restrictions that allow some teachers and staff to carry guns on school campuses.

But Arizona may be ahead of this curve. Here teachers already can carry guns in school — with permission — according to the state's top education administrator.

State statutes essentially already allow local school boards to give school employees permission to carry guns on a public district or charter school campus, state Superintendent Diane Douglas said Feb. 28 on the Bill Buckmaster Show on KVOI-AM, Tucson, Ariz.

However, the Arizona School Boards Association, a nonprofit organization that provides training to public school boards across the state, believes otherwise. Officials there said they had not heard of any Arizona school district ever using the state statute's provision to authorize teachers to carry guns at school.

► March 13: Guns in school: Here's how some states already are doing it
► March 8: 132 hours to train teachers on guns: Is it enough?
► March 8: How West Texas has been arming teachers for years

The specific law Douglas referenced, Arizona Revised Statute 15-341 A23, states the governing board shall "prescribe and enforce policies and procedures that prohibit a person from carrying or possessing a weapon on school grounds unless the person is a peace officer or has obtained specific authorization from the school administrator."

When asked on the radio show whether teachers with gun training should be allowed to carry firearms in school, Douglas said Arizona Department of Education research found “that’s an issue that we’ve already addressed in state statute."

Under that interpretation of the law, Douglas said schools and school boards "could look at people who have had (firearm) training."

"We have teachers on our campuses who are former military," Douglas said in the interview. "I would never, ever, ever ask a teacher who is not comfortable in that position to just take training and try to fit them into that position. But we need to look at all the resources that are available to us, in my opinion."

Later in the segment Douglas said, "It needs to be very specific authorization. This isn’t something we can take for granted or take very lightly."

Heidi Vega, spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association, said in an email that "ASBA definitely has a different interpretation of the statute."

"The language was clearly taken out of context when referring to teachers and guns on campus," Vega said.

The Arizona statute was not drafted with teachers in mind but, rather, parents, she said.

► March 4: Armed teachers in schools? N.Y. lawmakers want to ban it
► Feb. 24: This school district is already allowing teachers to carry guns

She included examples of the people that her organization believes the limited statute would apply to, including parents who are police officers entering a campus to pick up their children, attending a tour or speaking to a class as a guest.

At least nine additional states — Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming — allow staffers but not necessarily teachers to have access to a gun on school property, according to a Feb. 26 report from the Education Commission of the States, a government compact that keeps track of education policy. The conditions for allowing that to happen differ in each of those 10 states.

In a February forum for Arizona schools superintendent candidates, Douglas called for securing school entrances and paying for more school resource officers to address student safety in schools.

Follow Ricardo Cano on Twitter: @Ricardo_Cano1