Don't arm teachers, NC schools chief Mark Johnson says..
The state should not ask teachers to bring firearms to class but should instead fund more trained law enforcement officers in schools, the head of the state Department of Public Instruction says.
"We already ask so much of our educators. I do not believe we should ask them to take on another massive responsibility of having firearms in the classroom," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said in a statement posted on Twitter Monday.
"I am working to reduce additional burdens on teachers so that they can spend more time focused on teaching," Johnson said.
The statement from Johnson, a Republican, could have a significant impact on the debate over school safety in North Carolina.
Johnson has a good relationship with Republican state legislators, so much so that some critics say he has not done enough to stand up for schools when the General Assembly is considering education laws and funding. Johnson has said he prefers to convey his views to legislators behind the scenes.
His stance on arming teachers would make it more difficult, but by no means impossible, for legislators to push such a move. Several Republicans in North Carolina and around the country, including President Donald Trump, have said arming teachers would improve school safety.
Johnson said he supports "the expansion of funding for School Resource Officers. Firearms on school grounds should be in the hands of these trained, uniformed law-enforcement professionals who courageously choose a career protecting citizens from violent threats."
House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, last week appointed a 41-member committee of House members -- 29 Republicans and 12 Democrats -- to look at school safety issues and develop recommendations on how to make improvements.
Moore was quoted as saying he is not charging the committee with endorsing any particular policy change.
Johnson said Monday he looks forward to working with legislators "to determine the best ways to keep our students and educators safe."
The House committee includes two members from Western North Carolina: Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell, and Rep. Cody Henson, R-Transylvania.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, tweeted later Monday that he agrees with Johnson.
"Our teachers having to carry guns is a very bad idea," Cooper wrote.
State law prohibits anyone other than a law enforcement officer from having a firearm on school grounds.