HURLEY, Mo. – One school district in southern Missouri is enhancing its safety protocols by allowing district staff to carry concealed firearms.
Hurley R-1 School District began exploring the policy change in 2018 in order to heighten security across the district. Hurley Superintendent Dr. Allison Pope says the district first heard about similar policies from neighboring schools that had already enforced strict safety protocols.
Pope told The Heartlander that before the protection policy was put into place, her district interviewed several members of the community to ask their biggest worries about public education. The Hurley community spoke up and seemed more concerned about student safety than anything else, Pope says.
The district ensures those who carry a weapon inside their schools have taken the proper steps to become trained and certified in compliance with Missouri school safety officer requirements. Pope says staff are not required to carry, but can if they choose.
“Opening up the door for a policy like this does not mean it’s something instantaneous,” Pope said. “I’m not going to go to a kindergarten teacher and say, ‘I just hired you, do you want to carry? You need to carry.’”
The school district has a little over 200 students total and sits in the Branson micropolitan area.
Pope says many of the students’ parents graduated from Hurley, and therefore she believes the town to be a tight knit community. This is one of the reasons Pope believes this model of protection works well for her district, but she says she understands it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Pope also said the community is not shy about weaponry, noting that Hurley has air rifle and archery teams and offers hunter safety courses.
“Patrons have been very receptive to [the policy change]. We would not put a plan in place like this if we weren’t confident in their ability to do it,” Pope said. “We’re in a place where we have the right blend of staff. Our duty is to teach kids and educate kids, but this is just one of those small aspects that show how much we love our kids and that we’re going to protect them no matter what, at all costs.”
Furthermore, the district has received the federal COPS grant in order to update surveillance and purchase new locking mechanisms, window/door safety improvements, better communication systems and more. Cameras have been added at every entrance and visitors are now buzzed in by more than just the front desk secretary.
“We want to be able to ask the right questions and have other eyes rather than just the one person on the front entrance who is aware of people coming in and out of the building,” she said.
The district has also made strategic plans to place armed staff members in the vicinity of the most classrooms and higher-risk areas.