Ingalls school district backs down on concealed-carry plan

6/21/2013

By MARY CLARKIN

By MARY CLARKIN

Special to The Telegram

INGALLS — The Ingalls USD 477 school board agreed it was a good idea for top administrators to bring handguns to school.

Then, the district learned it would lose its liability insurance coverage through EMC Insurance Co. if it authorized guns in school.

"At this point, we are dropping the idea of this," Ingalls USD 477 Superintendent Dave Novack said Wednesday of handguns at school.

One Ingalls school board member raised the idea of looking for a different carrier, Novack said, but the district was really pleased with its current insurance.

Novack said the board has taken no official action. Even the prior consensus that would have allowed the principal in each school to have a concealed carry-permitted gun in the school did not entail a formal vote, he said.

"They haven't said which way they would go at this point, because it would be pretty hard to find insurance," said Debbie Benton, clerk of the school board for Ingalls USD 447.

Novack said the school board thought it would be good if principals and top administrators — about four people in all — would have a gun in a locked box at school.

"We were not looking at carrying," Novack explained.

Ingalls school board member Joanna Schmeeckle said schools are targeted, and they aren't as protected as other places.

Shooters don't go to banks, they go to schools, she observed.

The state's new concealed carry law makes it more difficult to prohibit guns in public buildings. The law's impact on K-12 schools, however, was mitigated because school districts were excluded from the definition of "municipality."

Still, the law allows school boards to authorize school employees with concealed-carry permits to bring guns on the premises.

The Kansas Department of Education's Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis said he knew of no districts permitting concealed carry, particularly in light of EMC's warning.

The EMC bulletin issued in May to independent insurance agents said in part:

"EMC cares deeply about the safety and well-being of our school children and we respect the choice of each school district to ensure the safety of their children as they see fit.

"EMC has concluded that concealed handguns on school premises pose a heightened liability risk. Because of this increased risk, we have chosen not to insure schools that allow employees to carry concealed handguns. Schools permitting concealed handguns will be declined, as new business. Existing schools permitting concealed handguns will not be renewed. We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company."

EMC writes more school districts than any other carrier, said Allen Fee of Fee Insurance Group, Hutchinson. Fee Insurance is the agent for a number of school districts, and Fee knew of no school district that had put its EMC coverage at risk by allowing employees to carry guns.

"They got ahead of this early," Fee also said of EMC's May 15 bulletin that followed the April signing of the concealed-carry legislation. No other carrier has issued a similar warning.

Dodge City USD 443 Superintendent Alan Cunningham said three options were presented to USD 443 board in the wake of the law: Allow employees to carry them on the premises; voice opposition; or do nothing and simply continue with the current ban.

It chose the last option, Cunningham said.

Hutchinson USD 308 similarly took no action and continues with its current policy under which only officers can be armed.

Syracuse USD 494 Superintendent Kenny Bridges said the Syracuse board is "pretty unified" and is sticking with the current ban.

"We're not going to arm faculty and staff," Bridges said.

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