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Arming America's Teachers: Should school staff become classroom cops?

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio- The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has prompted several Ohio schools to approve a controversial measure, arming some staff.

In the first part of our series, "Arming Americas Teachers," 21 News Anchor/Reporter Leslie Barrett spoke with supporters who feel teachers could be trained to handle a gun safely and critics who want only police to have that responsibility.

It's a scene becoming all too familiar to Americans. In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut, several Ohio school boards, including one in Trumbull County, have voted to arm some employees.

In Bloomfield-Mespo Schools, one worker said it's needed in that remote area where they're the first responders in a crisis. Another employee and parent said she trusts the staff to have guns.

"It's a different world today and if you would have asked me when my three older children were in the schools I probably would have said no, but it's a different time," said Ellen Vossler, a Bloomfield-Mespo Schools parent and cafeteria worker.

East Liverpool School Board member Dick Wolf wants to leave the arming to police officers and the teaching to educators.

"If someone pulls a gun and you have a gun than you've elevated the confrontation to a higher level. Someone's going to start shooting," Wolf said. "I don't want to see us revert to the Wild West."

Critics argue kids and the proximity to guns don't mix with the risk of lethal accidents, but one concealed carry instructor feels the threat could be minimized.

Rick Kaleda, a co-founder of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said, "As someone who trains people in firearm safety, you don't need to be handling a loaded firearm any more than is necessary. They'll be carrying it, it'll be concealed, they're not going to be playing with it. They'll be trained in safety and it'll be a tool to be there so they can protect the children."

Metal detectors are one part of the security at Youngstown City Schools. The district also has a police presence. The chief of security said being proactive comes with a cost.

The school district pays for police officers, sheriff's deputies and cruisers to be at separate buildings.

"The police officer is very good and trained for situations when there's something bad happening. We know how the police are going to react because of their training, not sure that's the case giving teacher's weapons or administrators weapons. We're not sure how that's going to happen," said Bill Morvay, Youngstown City Schools Chief of Security.

Kaleda argues, "Once a teacher is trained on safety and all those sorts of things, they'll be just as capable as safely carrying a firearm as law enforcement."

An Ohio teachers union said school employees should not be asked to serve a dual role, but the Buckeye Firearms Association and Bloomfield-Mespo Schools said it's only for those who volunteer.

Signs, that this is just the beginning of the debate on how to best protect young lives in what should be a safe place.

21 News Reporters Jennifer Baligush and Janet Rogers contributed to this report.

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