Dori: ‘My schools are safer than Seattle’s,’ says school leader whose admins carry guns

Jun 6, 2022, 4:28 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 6:26 am

Photo by Shawn Gust...

Photo by Shawn Gust

Without a moment’s hesitation, Toppenish School‘s superintendent John Cerna will tell you the eight schools in his rural district south of Yakima are safer than those in Seattle.

That, he told The Dori Monson Show, is because his district invests in armed school security staff – and select administrators carry guns on campus.

“Definitely, I know my schools are safer,” he told Dori Monday. “I know for a fact they are safer than in Seattle. I’ve walked the schools on the west side (of the Cascades). They don’t have a police presence or a security presence.”

In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting in Texas two weeks ago, debates continue on the ways schools and communities can improve school security.

Toppenish, meanwhile, has held steadfast to its Critical Incidence Response Team since 2014. That is when – under Cerna’s leadership – the district began allowing select, trained, and anonymous administrators to voluntarily carry guns on campus. Currently, there are 17 administrative staff ready to protect the district’s nearly 4,500 students in case of an attack.

“What do you say to people who say that makes a school a more dangerous place?” Dori asked.

“I get no pushback from the parents or the kids,” Cerna responded. “They feel safe.”

“I’ve got a lot more people supporting what we’re doing,” Cerna told Dori. Any opposition he hears comes from people who “don’t live in Toppenish.”

Even so, firearms are not the first line of defense, said Cerna. It starts with practices that are as “simple as locking the doors, making sure your teachers (and) building personnel are trained” in active shooter response, he says.

At the same time, the district spends $250,000 each year on school security personnel while gun-carrying administrators volunteer for their role. Currently, there are no trained teachers who volunteer for this role; union regulations require teachers to be paid for such a task.

Cerna has, however, received a variety of offers from people in his community “willing to volunteer” as campus security, but “we’re not taking any volunteers at this time. They have to be people who work for the district.”

“Why not just let police handle something this dangerous?” Dori asked.

“National school shooting statistics show local police response takes 12 to 14 minutes,” was Cerna’s response.

In active school shootings, “we know the carnage is done within 5 to 10 minutes,” Cerna continued. In Toppenish, “my people will be the first responders. That’s just the way it works. . . I hope it never happens, but if it does, I know my people will go in. They will not wait.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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