Bingham submits bill for marshals in schools
Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson County) introduced a bill last week that would allow school systems to add another layer of security to a campus.
If passed, Senate Bill 27 would permit boards of education to vote in favor of using “school marshals” on campuses that do not have a school resource officer. Marshals could be employees or volunteers who will receive extensive firearm safety training and have access to a weapon kept in a lock box in case of emergencies. In the wake of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Bingham feels it’s time to start being proactive when it comes to the protection of students.
“The best defense is a good offense,” Bingham said. “Instead of not being prepared and sitting on our hands saying ’oh my goodness, I hate this tragedy happened,’ I’ve always been a believer in being prepared. That‘s exactly what this bill does.”
With the help of Davidson County Sheriff David Grice, Bingham said he came up with a bill that not only serves as a deterrent against potential attacks, but puts qualified people in a position to defend a school campus if need be.
“If you were going to go to a school, you wouldn't go to one knowing there's a team of highly trained marksmen in the school,” said Bingham. “If your intent was to go kill somebody you'd go to one where they had Larry, Moe and Curly there.”
Senate Bill 27 would not be mandatory for all school systems. Whether or not the new marshals are volunteers, teachers or paid employees would be determined by individual school boards.
“That would be the choice they make,” Bingham said. “If a school board didn’t want to do it, if they didn’t feel like it was necessary and would do more harm than good, so be it.”
Qualification standards would be set by the N.C. Criminal Justice and Education Training Commission and administered by local law enforcement agencies. Qualified marshals will have access to a firearm that is to be kept in a lock box on campus.
Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Keith Tobin said that while he’s in favor of doing everything possible to keep students safe, he questions whether bringing more guns into the equation is the answer.
“I’m all for having SROs and certified law enforcement officers at our schools,” said Tobin. “It just makes me a little bit uneasy putting more and more guns in our schools. Sticking a gun in a gun lock box? I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. It just seems like a dangerous situation to me should the wrong person get a hold of that lock box.”
Tobn said TCS already is taking additional security measures such as installing cameras on school campuses, but adding armed marshals is not something he’s ready to do yet.
“I want to make sure the people we put in our schools are certified and trained,” Tobin said. “Just to take a laymen off the street, give them some training and put them in there, I’m not sure if that’s the answer. I want someone there who can make an arrest if they need to. I agree with [Bingham] that we need armed protection in our schools, but would it be the best to put it a lock box? I don’t know. It’s taking it to a new level for me.”
TCS currently has one school resource officer that serves Thomasville Middle School, Liberty Drive Elementary and Thomasville Primary School on a rotating basis. Thomasville High School also has a SRO.
Grice said ideally the marshal would be a teacher or school employee.
“Stan is very good about seeking our local law enforcement and the community when he feels legislation is needed,” said Grice. “This is something he and I were talking about as one possible response to security in the schools. It would be one more tool on the tool belt to increase security.”
Senate Bill 27 still is far from being law. Bingham said the bill first will be assigned to a committee. Should the bill pass a committee, it will go to the Senate floor and then to the House of Representatives. Bingham said he has been working on the bill for several months and it's not a direct result of the Sandy Hook shooting that claimed more than 20 elementary school students.
“It's not just a knee-jerk reaction because of the Sandy Hook tragedy,” Bingham said. “That really kicked it off because its been happening all over the country. This bill makes a lot of sense to me.”
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.