Okay Public Schools in Oklahoma have a new policy in place: "Armed School Employees."
A sign appears outside of a campus stating: "Please be aware that certain staff members at Okay Public Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students."
The policy was approved in August and follows after similar programs adopted in Texas.
Okay high school Principal Mark Hayes is said to have spearheaded the policy because of the lack of availability of local police to be a constant presence at the small-town schools. Okay Public Schools Board of Education Superintendent Charles McMahan approved the policy and provided the signage.
"The signs are more or less a deterrent," he said. "We don't want to be a soft target."
McMahon became increasingly concerned about the safety of the students after the Okay Police Department disbanded over a year ago. Sheriff's deputies are available to the school, but McMahon stressed that it's "seconds, not minutes, that matter."
So far, only one employee has met the criteria needed to carry on campus. According to McMahan, the policy requires any teacher or staff to be approved by the board of education and then they must qualify for a certificate or license from the Council on Law Enforcement Education Training (CLEET), have an Oklahoma Self Defense Act License, and be qualified with the firearm through CLEET.
“Our standards are higher,” the superintendent said. “We really wanted people to know this is serious to us; we don't take this issue lightly.”
Critics of the policy still wonder if armed teachers would have any impact on preventing school shootings and worry that students could get the gun away from a teacher and hurt someone.