Iowa school districts can already have trained and vetted school staffers serve as an armed line of defense in case of a targeted attack on campus, but some districts have run into a barrier that’s stopping them from doing so: insurance providers.
In Spirit Lake, Iowa, for instance, the district was informed last year that unless they scrapped their armed school staff policy they’d have to find another insurer, and at least one other school district has run into the same issue with their provider, EMC Insurance.
Rep. John Wills introduced legislation last year that would forbid insurance companies from dropping districts over armed school staff, and while the bill didn’t make it across the finish line he tells Bearing Arms Cam & Co that the issue of school security has become a top priority for lawmakers this session in the wake of the shootings in the town of Perry, and that the “all-of-the-above approach” he and his colleagues are taking includes helping districts that want to have that layer of protection be able to do so.
“This is our third week of session and we’ve had no less than ten meetings about this issue,” Wills disclosed, adding that he’s working alongside the chair of the Judiciary, Public Safety, and Education committees as well as three of the eight legislative staffers assigned to work with the Republican caucus.
“We’ve had meetings with schools, we’ve had meetings with insurance companies,” Wills added. “I’m working with the Senate to make sure we have a collaborative bill that we can do something with. We’re working on this at multiple levels with those three committees.”
While the bill is still being drafted, it shouldn’t be too long before we see some specifics. Wills tells Bearing Arms that the first deadline for bills to advance past their initial committee is about three weeks away, and the armed school staff portion of the legislation will be just one part of a larger effort to improve school safety.
“I think the armed employees is the smallest part of this issue. School safety is important on multiple levels, and guns are just a small part of it, but it’s an important part of it because it’s the last ditch effort, the last line of defense,” Wills emphasized.
As Wills pointed out, many school districts in the state don’t have dedicated school resource officers for every campus, and some rural communities can be looking at a response time of 20 minutes or longer if there’s an attack on school grounds. Wills says that we may see grants for districts to hire SROs, but he also believes that giving districts money to train school staff who’ve volunteered to serve as that last line of defense could be a more cost-effective approach to ensuring that there’s an armed response as soon as possible in case of an active assailant on campus.
Unlike last year’s bill, which would have simply forbidden insurance companies from denying coverage to districts that have these policies in place, Wills says this year’s legislation will probably offer a slightly different approach to the issue, including incentivizing more insurers to do business with school districts in the state. The lawmaker tells Bearing Arms that one of the problems right now is that EMC Insurance is basically the only option for many districts, and if the company says it won’t insure those districts that allow for armed school staff on the premises they have nowhere else to turn.
I’m looking forward to having Rep. Wills back on the show in a couple of weeks to talk about some of the specific provisions in the bill that’s being drafted, which is sure to meet with opposition from his Democratic counterparts and their allies. We’re already seeing attempts in Colorado to roll back state law and forbid school districts from having armed staff in place, and I’m sure the Democrats in the Iowa legislature will do everything in their power to prevent as many districts as possible from putting similar policies in place. Student safety should be a bipartisan issue, but when armed staff are a part of that discussion it’s inevitably too problematic for most Democrats to embrace… even if the alternative is to leave teachers, administrators, and students utterly defenseless when seconds count and help is minutes away.