Ki-Be will arm school employees

The Kiona-Benton City School District will arm designated school administrators who volunteer as security personnel, though not before evaluating them for their psychological or physical fitness.

The school board unanimously approved during its Monday night meeting a policy to allow district employees to carry firearms on school grounds. No discussion occurred and there was no public comment on the matter.

The requirement of psychological or physical review of staff selected to carry guns at school was a late amendment to the policy. While most community members supported the policy, several asked the board for some form of screening to make sure armed staff wouldn’t pose a risk to students.

Board members have discussed the policy for weeks, motivated by past incidents at other schools around the country involving gunmen attacking schools, particularly the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut in December 2012.

The district will reimburse school officials who volunteer as security officers and carry a .380- or 9 mm-caliber pistol, holster and ammunition under the policy. The district also will pay for training and licensing.

Along with psychological screening, some district residents have said the public should know who is authorized to carry a gun on school grounds. Security officers will not be publicly identified so an attacker wouldn’t be able to target them, district officials have said.

The policy approval comes several weeks after the board voted to pay for firearms training for select administrators at a prior board meeting.

Also Monday night, board members voiced interest in putting a capital projects levy before voters later this year after one was rejected in February.

The district previously sought $750,000 to pay for new portable classrooms to replace aging facilities at Kiona-Benton City elementary and middle schools. More than half of the district’s voters turned it down and school officials blamed the outcome on low voter turnout.

The levy could go on a ballot as early as August, but Superintendent Wade Haun suggested it might be better to wait until November. Board chairman Tim Cook said the district should form a committee now to begin getting information about the levy out, as a lack of information was a problem the last time around.