A Christian school in Iowa will arm and train its staff following a deadly shooting at a high school in the Hawkeye State.
Starting this month, Siouxland Christian School (SCS) in Sioux City, near the state’s western border with Nebraska, will arm selected staff members to be prepared in the event of an active shooter on campus, according to an official memo sent out to families.
In her Jan. 5 letter, SCS Superintendent Lindsay Laurich cited the “unfortunate reality” of school shootings like the one at Perry High School in central Iowa, which left the school’s principal, Dan Marburger, dead after he heroically intervened during the shooting.
In addition to Marburger, an 11-year-old student at Perry High also died.
While plans to possibly arm staffers had been considered at SCS long before the shooting at Perry High, Laurich told parents after the shooting, school officials “determined that it is essential that we take further steps to secure our building and to ensure that your child(ren) are protected at school.”
Calling the decision the result of a year-long “serious and diligent process” involving feedback from law enforcement groups, legal advisors, and insurance and industry experts, Laurich said the armed SCS staff are trained to “go directly to the threat” and respond in a manner that will “allow teachers and students to get to safe positions and will provide an active response until law enforcement is able to arrive.”
All staffers selected to be armed will remain anonymous, she said, explaining that the decision was a difficult but necessary one for the safety of students and staff at SCS, a fully accredited private school with students from preschool through grade 12.
“School buildings should be safe. Teachers and children should not be afraid to come to school,” Laurich wrote. “We must employ all of the tools and resources at our disposal in order to be prepared for worst case scenarios.
“… With God’s help this layer of protection will never need to be deployed,” she added.
Whether in a Christian or secular setting, when it comes to arming school staffers, the key to limiting legal liability is “training and acting reasonably,” according to Theresa Sidebotham of Telios Law, a Colorado law firm that works with Christian ministries, churches, and other religious organizations.
“Churches, schools, and other ministries are frequent targets for mass shooters. While it may be counterintuitive for some, being armed, trained, and prepared can end attacks quickly or help deter them to begin with,” Sidebotham said in a statement shared with CP. “In some cases, having armed protection prevented a bloodbath.”
While churches and ministries might understandably be concerned about potential legal exposure for arming their staff, Sidebotham said as long as certain key measures are in place — including proper training and screening of identified personnel and a “carefully crafted” security policy — churches and other ministries can take the same steps as private individuals to defend their people and their property.
“Legal standards don’t require ministries to be sitting ducks,” she added.
Additional security measures can also be taken, including the installation of surveillance cameras and implementing restricted building access.
A June 2023 survey by Lifeway Research found an overwhelming majority (81%) of Protestant pastors in the U.S. say their church has some form of security in place, whether it’s armed church members, uniformed police officers, or armed private security on site.
Some security measures listed by researchers include an “intentional plan for an active shooter situation,” which more than half (57%) of churches surveyed said they have in place. A similar number (54%) said armed church members are part of their security measures, a nearly 10% increase from 2019.
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