Kern High School District teachers are split over whether trained certificated staff members should be allowed to carry concealed firearms on campus, according to a survey of hundreds of faculty members obtained by The Californian.
About 30 percent of roughly 900 respondents said they strongly agreed teachers trained in gun safety should be able to carry on school grounds, while another 30 percent said they strongly disagreed, according to the anonymous survey administered by the Kern High School Teachers Association.
Roughly 15 percent agreed with the policy — though not strongly — while another 15 percent disagreed — again not strongly. The rest were neutral.
At the same time, more than 60 percent of respondents said that knowing non-employees carrying firearms on campus makes them feel less safe.
Exact percentages were not available. Certificated staff include anyone with a teaching credential.
The survey, which was administered in December and released to teachers Thursday, comes more than two months after Kern High School District trustees voted to allow teachers with Concealed Carry Weapon permits to bring their firearms to campuses, and about eight months after non-employees were granted permission. Superintendent approval is required.
Staff have not presented to the district board proposed guidelines for CCW-permitted teachers who want to carry. The board has approved rules for non-employees and at least 13 have secured permission.
The firearms policies are still a source of controversy. Just this week, protesters from the Dolores Huerta Foundation and other community groups brought a petition with more than 2,000 signatures to a district board meeting calling on trustees to reverse their decisions. The trustees who voted to approve the policy said it would improve public safety.
“I think in the end what you’re dealing with is people who have different world views about firearms,” KHSD Trustee Mike Williams, a proponent of the policy, said of the survey Friday. “You have people who feel firearms are evil and dangerous at all times or people who are comfortable with firearms and understand their danger and also their benefits.”
But the policies could create obstacles during contract negotiations, KHSTA Vice President Jesse Aguilar said, pointing to an article in the contract that ensures teachers have safe working environments.
For example, more than 70 percent of respondents said staff should be informed which non-employees carry firearms at school events.
“Our members really believe if somebody has a gun on their campus, they need to know who it is,” Aguilar said. “This idea of anonymity isn’t going to fly.”
The names of CCW permittees allowed to carry on campuses is a matter of public record. The Californian was provided a list not long ago after filing a records request.
When asked if certificated staff should be able to carry a concealed firearm on school grounds if law enforcement has determined they are not a danger to themselves or others, respondents were pretty evenly split as to yes or no. When the same question was posed about non-employees, they said no more strongly.
That's because “teachers trust each other," Aguilar said.
More than 70 percent of respondents said teachers ought to receive training above and beyond what’s required for a CCW permit. More than 60 percent said they should be informed of non-employees carrying firearms on campus.
District leaders said they would not allow any teachers to carry firearms on campus until after guidelines are written. At least 13 non-employees have been approved to carry under the rules the district has approved for them.
Dave Richmond, a Centennial High School history and government teacher, called the policy to allow firearms on campus “insane” earlier this year, and out of step with SB 707, the legislation that allowed the district to pass the policy.
SB 707, known as the Gun-Free School Zone Act, bars firearms on campus, except to those permitted by local superintendents.
“This emanated from a safe schools law, but they’ve found a loophole through the legislative process,” Richmond said. “I have a right to teach in a safe environment. My view is that more guns leads to less safe schools.”
Richmond now is refusing to attend any school event, parent-teacher conference or staff meeting unless he can be assured a CCW holder with a firearm won’t be there, he said.
Almost 60 percent of respondents said he and others shouldn’t be disciplined for that.