According to KTLA news, a city councilman in Orange County is calling for teachers to be armed in response to the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut. The San Juan Capistrano City Councilman, Derek Reeve, has reportedly said that "efforts must be taken to empower teachers, staff and parents to protect our children.” The comments, which also included a recommendation for teacher training and to permit parents to carry guns on school campuses, were suggested as options to protect children in situations like the one in Connecticut.
Arming Teachers and Allowing Weapons on School Campuses Could Subject School Districts to Civil Liability
In general, criminal acts committed by third parties are not the responsibility of the property owners or operators where the incident occurs However, where the property owner and the victim have a "special relationship" (as exists between a teacher and student) there may be a duty of protection, where the danger to the victim is reasonably foreseeable. In light of tragedies like Sandy Hook, it might seem the obligation of school districts around the country would be to arm teachers and parents in order to better protect the children on campus. But the analysis cannot end there.
The duty of protection requires "reasonable" efforts be made, not efforts that could clearly cause more harm than good. One can easily imagine a school teacher, with only limited firearms training, making the wrong decision to fire on someone who appears to pose a threat, injuring or killing someone unnecessarily. Do we really want to force school teachers to make life-or-death decisions that trained law enforcement officers would have a hard time making?
Aside from the potential for a teacher to negligently discharge a weapon, liability would almost certainly be imposed on a school district if a teacher carelessly let their weapon fall into the hands of child who was then injured or killed. So many scenarios could easily give rise to liability, and the public entity operating a school would have to suffer the civil liability. In fact, guns in and around schools are perceived as such a threat in general that California enacted the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995, criminalizing the possession of a firearm in a school zone. Do we seriously want more guns around school-aged children?
If all of these potential teacher-related problems were not enough, the councilman's suggestion also included allowing parents onto school campuses with a firearm. In that scenario, we would then have some untrained, perhaps unstable, person wandering onto a school campus with a loaded gun. That would carry with it its own set of potential liabilities and problems. Even if the teachers and the parents were armed, in reality, what chance would any of these teachers or parents have against a homicidal maniac with an assault weapon? Not much.
From a purely legal perspective, the liabilities associated with arming teachers and parents on school grounds would far outweigh any probable benefit. The likelihood of an accidental injury or death would be increased exponentially if we arm so many people on our school campuses. There has to be better, less risky steps we can take to protect our children.
SOURCE: O.C. Councilman Wants Teachers To Be Armed, KTLA News, December 20, 2012