Certain Cody school personnel will be allowed to concealed carry firearms in district buildings this fall.
Tuesday night the Cody School Board voted 4-2 to pass Policy CKA on third reading. With the vote it becomes official school policy. The process to receive applications, vet, train and select district personnel to concealed carry in the schools begins soon.
As in the previous vote in March, trustees Tom Keegan and Stefanie Bell – Bell called in via phone – were opposed, while chair Kelly Simone and trustees Scott Weber, William Struemke and Jenni Rosencranse voted in favor.
There were three major amendments from the second reading. The first was to raise the minimum amount of recurring training required from 12 to 18 hours after receiving a recommendation from Park County sheriff Scott Steward to add more. There are still at least 24 hours of initial training required as well.
The second change provides more specific training requirements and include some of those used by federal law enforcement, such as training with the nondominant hand and working with barriers.
“If we’re going to set the bar high,” chair Kelly Simone said, “let’s set the bar high.”
The final change was to add a comprehensive review of the policy after two years.
All trustees had the opportunity to state their views on the policy before the vote.
Weber said the policy would keep students safe, while Keegan said it would make schools less safe. Simone and Rosencranse both pledged to look carefully at every employee who applies before admitting them into the program.
“I think the CKA policy is 90 percent deterrent,” Weber said, adding that he was ready to replace gun-free zone signs with armed staff signs. “An armed school has never been breached and it won’t be. I can guarantee it.”
Bell said the policy was a last resort and wouldn’t support it. Keegan went further.
“I think academics will suffer,” he said. “Those people will no longer be just teaching, they’ll also be carrying a gun ... So we can expect less from our teachers as well.”
Nine people spoke during the public comment period, five in favor and four against the policy.
Some had been to meetings since the beginning, including Bill Tallen and Press Stephens, and one had firsthand knowledge of the process – former school board trustee Rebecca George.
George urged the trustees to pass the policy after the work that had been put into it and the many questions they had answered.
“What is going to stop someone who comes through the door?” she asked. “The only answer is an [School Resource Officer] or armed teacher. That is what you need to remember on this policy. Nothing else is going to stop them.
“I wish I were there with you making this vote. I know you’ll do me proud.”
On the other side of the issue, senior Jordan Nelson said she didn’t want to add more fear for younger students, including her brother.
“I don’t want guns in our school – we go to school everyday scared we might be shot by someone in the school. We don’t want to have the added fear of guns in the hands of teachers in the school,” she said. “I worry that in the heat of the moment, there are more problems than solutions.”
There have been many public comments at previous meetings, in addition to a public forum in January, but people have made their thoughts known to trustees in a variety of methods, from emails to calls and chats in the street.
Trustees have also received two petitions on the issue. At the March board meeting trustees accepted a petition in favor of the policy carrying the signatures of 661 Cody residents.
Prior to that, local group Wyoming Rising-Northwest spearheaded creation of a petition with 368 signatures in opposition to the policy, which was delivered at February’s board meeting.
A scientific school district survey showed the community heavily in favor of the policy.
Policy CKA was initially written in the fall under the direction of school board counsel Scott Kolpitcke, but has been heavily amended over the months. It was made possible by the Legislature’s vote during the 2017 session to approve a bill allowing districts to choose whether or not they wanted to allow concealed carry under certain conditions, including a minimum 24 hours of initial training.
Nearly every meeting since the fall has included discussion of the policy and many work sessions have gone long into the night with trustees working through specific language. Trustees have also discussed specifics with Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker and Steward on multiple occasions.
At its core, the policy and regulations allow employees under contract with the school district, i.e. teachers, administrators – along with classified employees at the rural schools with board discretion – to carry a concealable firearm on school property if they pass background checks, a psychological suitability exam and 24 hours of initial training, among other steps.
The policy was initially scheduled to have its first reading in January, but that vote was delayed to February, at which point trustees voted 5-2 to pass it to second reading.
Earlier in March, Uinta County, drawing from Cody’s policy, became the first district in the state to approve a policy allowing school personnel to concealed carry.