Breaking News

Fannin County second in state to vote to arm personnel to protect students

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Gwatney

Laurens County adopted similar policy in April

By Elaine Owen, Editor ~~

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Gwatney
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Gwatney

Fannin County is not the first county in Georgia to adopt a policy to allow specific employees to carry guns to protect students. In April, the Laurens County school board approved a policy to allow select staff to carry guns on school property, in vehicles and at school functions.
Laurens County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman said teachers and staff who carry guns will do so on a voluntary basis and receive intensive training from the county sheriff’s department.
Brigman said the district is not arming all teachers. “Nor will we have teachers or any other staff members openly carrying firearms during the school day. The processes to support this approved policy will be developed in a very careful and confidential manner in partnership with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Department.”
A 2014 Georgia law left it up to individual districts to decide if employees could carry guns on school property. Districts that opt to implement weapons policies must follow specific requirements for the approval of employees to participate; the types of weapons and ammunition allowed; firearms training; licensing; and securing weapons.
Last month, Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) members had the first reading and discussion of a proposed policy called “Possession of Weapons by Employees policy (GAMB)” that states “The Board of Education may authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the District.”
Those approved to carry weapons on school property must meet and adhere to certain criteria, including proper training and skills approved in advance by the Superintendent and the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office. Continued evaluation will also be required. To receive and subsequently maintain authorization, all approved personnel shall regularly qualify to the standard required by the Fannin County Sheriff for each type of weapon authorized.
Types and quantities of weapons and ammunition each individual will be allowed to possess will be approved and monitored by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office and the superintendent.
Personnel will not be required to carry arms and the program will be carried out strictly on a volunteer basis. The new legislation states, “The final appointment will be made by the Superintendent consistent with the requirements of this policy. Each employee appointed must be licensed under the laws of the state to carry a firearm and shall be subject to an annual criminal history background check. Approval will not be granted for any employee who has had an employment or other history indicating any type of mental or emotional instability as determined by the Board or Superintendent. The Superintendent shall be able at any time to remove or suspend the authority granted to any employee under this policy.”
The Thursday meeting that brought an overflow crowd to the BOE meeting was a result of publicity about the proposed policy. Parents and citizens’ main concern was Agenda Item 9. “Adopt Board policy – Possession of Weapons by Employees GAMB.” (GAMB is not an acronym—simply a designation used by the Board.)
Fifteen chairs were set aside for citizens who might want to speak–only 10 requested to speak. Each was given three minutes to speak after Supt. Dr. Michael Gwatney read the rules for Public Comments.
First was BRENT WARBURG, a former FBI agent, profiler and hostage negotiator. War

burg has worked with emotional problems in adults and children, individually and in group therapy. He said he wanted to speak against teachers having guns in school.
“It’s madness; that the way you propose to solve a problem is to kill somebody. I can’t even conceive of that. If you arm a teacher and that teacher shoots somebody, you own it. A cheaper and better way would be to hire a licensed clinical social worker or licensed clinical counselor for the five schools. Teachers can identify kids who need problems…and the counselor could work with them to try to solve their problems. What you’re doing is taking a kid and you’re saving his life–you’re not shooting him…I don’t think very many teachers want to carry a gun–they want to teach.”