This article has been updated since it was published to correct an incorrect name.

As school districts struggle with how best to respond to an increasing violence on their campuses, some administrators are considering allowing staff members to be armed.

While so far that’s not the case in the Walla Walla Valley, some districts in Washington and Oregon have allowed for teachers to have firearms in the classroom.

Media reports say that in the end, the final decision comes down to a key player — the insurance companies that cover liability and property for school districts.

Washington Schools Risk Management Pool covers more than 90 K-12 school districts in the state, including Walla Walla Public Schools. The pool was created in 1986 when commercial markets were unwilling to insure districts.

As of now, the governing board has not made any decision regarding insurance coverage for districts that allow for armed staff, said spokeswoman Lee Keller.

“They are currently reviewing and working on a policy. They will take that up in their June board meeting and there may be action. “

The organization makes every policy decision through the lens of protecting the learning environment, she added.

“It’s definitely something everyone is talking about.”

In 2013 the Oregon School Boards Association, which insures most of the state’s schools, tacked on an additional $1,500 for each armed individual who has military training or equivalent experience, is a member of a city or county law enforcement agency and is certified by the Department of Public Safety Standards. For those with just the department’s certification, coverage is $2,500 more per person, NBC reported.  

PACE was formed in 2006 by Oregon School Boards Association and the Special Districts Association of Oregon to create the largest property and liability risk pool of school entities in the state, including private and charter schools. Milton-Freewater Unified School District is among those districts insured by PACE.

Alex Pulaski, communications director for Oregon School Boards Association, said the organization’s policies related to staff weapons have not changed since 2013.

“As we are a pool, our goals are related to spreading out risk and saving members money rather than creating profit,” he said in an email.

“Ideally our schools will contract with a local city police department or local county sheriff’s office for security, because of the higher level of training required of these officers (and) deputies. If they do this, and the municipality assumes the liability for the actions of their personnel, then we charge no additional premium.

“If they do this but we are responsible for providing the liability, we charge $1,500 per full time employee, Pulaski noted.

“Either way, we will potentially have some liability exposure for the actions of security.”

And if a school decides to arm their own staff and make it part of the job description, his association requires a higher level of training and charges $2,500 per full time employee, Pulaski said.

Without approved training and certification, insurance will not cover the use of firearms by employees or contractors, he added.

If a school district has no policy, their employees are permitted to exercise their right to carry a weapon on campus provided that they have a valid conceal-carry permit, Pulaski pointed out.

While PACE does not charge any additional premium in that case, neither will it cover the employee if he or she has a negligent mishap with their firearm, he explained.

The policy was enacted to motivate school districts to work with their cities if they want an armed presence on campus.

“If they choose to take it in-house then we require a higher level of training than just a concealed-carry permit.”

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.

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