As concerns about school shootings persist nationwide, a Christian school in Iowa is taking its safety precautions to the next level by arming staff members.
Lindsay Laurich, superintendent of Siouxland Christian School (SCS), says school leadership started workshopping the new policy nearly 18 months ago.
“Every school shooting incident is tragic and traumatic, and our hearts break when they happen,” she told The Lion. “Specifically, for me, when I saw the shooting at the Christian school in Nashville, I think a switch flipped for me personally. I saw that that person who attacked that school was able to gain access so quickly into that building.”
At SCS, enrollment has grown from 180 to 550 students in the past five years, making security all the more important.
When discussing the issue with local law enforcement, SCS learned the official response time to an active shooter situation would be around 7 to 11 minutes. For Laurich, “the element of timing” helped school leadership understand the importance of in-school security – resulting in the new armed-staff policy.
“The staff who are willing to take on this responsibility are heroes. These are folks who are saying, ‘If the worst of the worst would happen, I’m willing to go direct to the threat and to put my own life aside,’” she told The Lion.
SCS is keeping the names and number of armed staff secret to protect their privacy.
When it came to hammering out the details of the policy, Siouxland Christian leadership worked closely with law enforcement, the district attorney and even the school’s insurance company to make sure everything was above board.
Armed staff agreed to rigorous and ongoing training with the local sheriff; situational tabletop exercises with emergency operators; hands-on firearm skills; and emergency first aid. The school made provisions so firearms are always safely secured.
“There is no way that students or anybody in our building would be able to access a weapon,” Laurich says.
Although she feared some people might have concerns with the new policy, Laurich says the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “Our school community was 100% supportive. We didn’t get a single negative response. On the contrary, most people were like, ‘Thank you so much for making this a priority.’”
While state and national news coverage of the policy brought a handful of critics, the response of the Sioux City community was “90-95% positive.”
“I think it speaks to the fact that parents are sending their kids to school, but they’re also doing it with this prayer, and underneath it a panic of, ‘Is my child safe at school?’ I don’t think any of us can assume that it’s not going to happen in our building, in our city.”
Laurich encouraged other school administrators “not to be afraid” to implement similar armed staff policies “if it is something they feel is right for their school.”
“There is a pathway, I think, to do it well,” she concludes. “And certainly, just like we improve all the different elements of our school, safety needs to be continuously improving.”