In Rural America, Bears Actually ARE a Valid Reason for Teachers to be Armed

According to NBC News, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, told lawmakers that guns might have a place in schools due to the threat from grizzly bears.

The article reads, “Pressed on whether she could say ‘definitively’ if guns shouldn’t be in schools, she referred to an earlier remark by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming, that had erected a fence to protect children from wildlife.”

DeVos’ answer was simple: “I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

While people in Washington, DC, New York, and cities all over America think what she said is absurd, folks in rural Montana, Wyoming and other western states are glad someone finally noticed our plight.

I served on the Dupuyer Elementary School Board when we decided to erect a six-foot, chain link fence around the school because there were so many bears roaming the area. This fall, a grizzly was seen within three blocks of Valier Elementary at 3 p.m. – just 30 minutes before school was dismissed. Many Hutterite colonies in the area have bears in their gardens and schoolyards every year. A school in Bozeman – not a rural town but a “big city” – had a black bear INSIDE their school.

The idea of a grizzly being a threat to school children is not absurd to anyone that lives in grizzly country; it’s a real and constant worry for parents, teachers and administration. As the parent of a third grade student, I for one would be totally supportive of our teachers and staff being armed in case of a bear attack. Yes, I fully believe in the use of pepper spray as a non-lethal deterrent. HOWEVER, pepper spray doesn’t always stop a bear.

A bullet will.

Some schools have armed police officers to protect staff and students from attacks from other people. Why wouldn’t we want our children to have the same protection from a wild animal?

Some people say there is too much of a risk having teachers armed because they may miss their target. I say in rural Montana and Wyoming, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person that isn’t good with a gun. I also believe that any person – teacher, administrator, janitor – that is allowed to carry a firearm at school should be trained and certified to use one.

The truth of the matter is this: the grizzly bear population in Montana and Wyoming is fully recovered, and their numbers are increasing so rapidly that many grizzlies are venturing out onto the prairie in search for new and easier food sources. This means our little towns are in their path, and with so much activity in a town, a curious and hungry grizzly isn’t going to avoid the place. We need to be proactive in our efforts to keep our children and families safe. If that means arming our school teachers, then so be it.

Until Next Time,

Trina Jo

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