Kansas Might Arm Teachers: Breakdown of HB 2789

Kansas has introduced two bills to arm teachers in public schools and make those school buildings look more like prisons with the institution of more security measures, like metal detectors and video cameras.

On Wednesday March 21, 2018 two identical bills were introduced into the House and Senate — SB 454 and HB 2789, and a hearing has already been scheduled for HB 2789 on Tuesday, March 27th at 8:00am in Room 112-N (they moved to this room because it’s larger than 281-N) at the Statehouse.

These bills are 28-pages long and include a lot of important, yet tedious details, so we have systematically gone through the bill below so that you can fully understand what they are doing with this legislation. Because they introduced identical bills in both houses, and the date of enactment written in the legislation is January 1, 2019, we know they are serious about passing this and quick.

You can read the full bill here, but we have also broken it down in plain(er) language by section, highlighting the most important information that you need to know. When things repeat multiple times in multiple sections, they are only included in the first section they appear so we don’t make this as long as the original bill. Because this breakdown is still really long, here are the five most important things that you need to know about this bill:

  1. It creates a way for teachers to carry guns at school by creating a SAFER schools endorsement on Kansas-issued concealed carry licenses
  2. It creates a class C misdemeanor conviction for disclosing or encouraging the disclosure of people who have that SAFER schools endorsement
  3. It creates standards for school district buildings regarding other safety measures- like secure entrances and video cameras
  4. It prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on guns in schools
  5. It requires firearm safety education curriculum to be developed and names the NRA’s programs in that requirement

Full Breakdown of HB 2789 and SB 434 by Section

Section 1: School Safety Standards Creation

The State Board of Education must work with the adjutant general, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and the Environment, and any other agencies considered “necessary” to develop school safety standards and notify school boards of their standards by January 1, 2019. They are allowed to keep some information secret from the public. The standards must include the following things:

  • secured entrances, windows, and other aspects of the buildings
  • security technology, including alarms and security cameras
  • communications systems, including systems that connect school districts directly with the police
  • anything else the Board of Education considers necessary

Section 2: Implementation of School Safety Standards

This section breaks down the requirements for the creation of the standards that each school district will be required to implement if this law passes. These standards must include the following items, although they are allowed to include things not listed here:

  • the requirement that school districts evaluate their school buildings and make sure they are in line with standards
  • training of school district employees on what they are supposed to do in an emergency and while holding emergency drills
  • notifying people who are not in the school building about emergencies happening in the school building and for contacting law enforcement
  • securing school buildings during an emergency situation
  • evacuating school buildings, including evacuation routes and sites
  • what to do after an emergency situation is no longer an emergency
  • making sure the standards developed as a result of this law fit in with the school safety plans that school districts already have
  • distributing the school safety plans to the right law enforcement agencies
  • making sure schools are held accountable for maintaining these standards
  • anything else the Board of Education decides is necessary

When they develop these standards that will be used statewide in every school district, the State Board of Education must clearly identify which people or agencies are responsible for which aspects of the school safety plans. The Board of Education may use anything that is available from the US Department of Homeland Security to create these procedures.

Section 3: Requirements for School Board Safety Plans

Before adopting the standards that the Board of Education will create (see Section 1 and 2), each school district must consult with local law enforcement to review their buildings and current policies and procedures. The local law enforcement agencies will tell the school districts how they can improve, and any recommendations made must be done according to the standards that the Board of Education will create. After creating their individual plans, each school district must send these plans to law enforcement and the State Board of Education.

Section 4: No Liability for LEOs

Law enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers are not legally liable for any personal injury or property damage resulting from anything required or permitted by Sections 1-3. Any law enforcement officer or agency who is brought to court over anything they do to institute the policies discussed in Sections 1-3 may be awarded court costs and “reasonable” attorney fees.

Section 5: Arming Teachers

The Board of Education may allow any employee of a school district who has a license to carry a handgun in Kansas or who wants a license to carry a handgun in Kansas to get a “SAFER schools” endorsement added to their concealed carry license. Any employee who gets this endorsement will be considered a “SAFER schools team member” by the Board of Education. All SAFER schools team members can concealed carry a gun in any school district building.

The identities of any SAFER team member are considered confidential and are not public information. School boards must develop procedures to keep the identities of those employees who choose to carry guns at school private. Anyone who “willfully or knowingly discloses, permits, or encourages disclosure of that information” will be guilty of a class C misdemeanor. Basically if we let people know which teachers are carrying guns or encourage people to let us know which teachers are carrying guns, we could be charged with a misdemeanor. 

Section 6: Insurance

Insurance companies cannot charge more for or refuse to provide insurance policies for the sole reason that a school district allows employees to carry guns in the premises unless the rate is differential or “based on sound actuarial principles or is related to actual or reasonably anticipated experience.” This will be enforced in accordance with Kansas Statutes Annotated Art. 26 Ch. 40.

Section 7: K-12 Gun Curriculum

The Board of Education must create curriculum guidelines for a standardized “firearm safety” curriculum. The guidelines must include the following items, but can include more:

  • accident prevention
  • K-5 curriculum must be based on the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program offered by the NRA or any other evidence-based program or any program that might come after Eddie Eagle
  • Grades 6-8 curriculum must be based on either the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program or any program that comes after it, or based on the Hunter Education in Our Schools program created by the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism or any successor program, or any other evidence-based program or any successor program
  • Grades 9-12 curriculum must be based on the Hunter Education in Our Schools program from the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism or any other evidence-based program or any successor program

If a school board chooses to offer firearms safety education classes, they must be offered to ensure that every student has the opportunity to take them.

Section 8: Naming of the SAFER Act

Sections 1-8 and any amendments shall be referred to as the “Kansas Staff as First Emergency Responders (SAFER) Act”.

Section 9:  Public Disclosure Law Amendments

This section amends K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 45-221, which is  the Kansas Open Records Law exemption list, to prohibit the disclosure of the following (except as required by law):

  1. the school safety standards created by the State Board of Education or adopted by school districts according to sections 1-2 of this law
  2. records regarding employees who choose to carry guns in school buildings, including any lists of those employees kept by school districts

Section 10: Establishes SAFER schools hotline

This section amends K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 72-6143, which concerns the privacy of student information, to allow any student, teacher, administrator or other individual to report a student to the SAFER schools hotline, which will be maintained by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. All reports to that hotline must be investigated, and each school district must post that hotline number on their website.

Section 11: Creating SAFER schools Endorsement on Concealed Carry Licenses

The Attorney General must issue the SAFER schools endorsement on the concealed carry license to any person who is eligible and fulfills the requirements. A license with this endorsement will be valid for 4 years from the date of issue. The endorsement shall be prominently displayed on the front of the license.

You can read about what is already required to get a Kansas concealed carry license here. Remember that licenses are not needed to carry anywhere else in the state.

Section 12: Standards for SAFER schools endorsements

The Attorney General shall only issue a license with the SAFER schools endorsement to employees of the school district who are authorized by the board of education of their school district. The Attorney General shall adopt rules and regulations to establish procedures for a handgun safety and training course required for anyone applying for the SAFER schools endorsement. Those standards shall include:

  • a requirement that trainees satisfy the training requirements that are required for all concealed carry licenses in Kansas
  • a requirement that trainees receive specific training designed for school district employees based on guidelines developed by the commission on peace officers’ standards and training
  • qualifications of instructors
  • a requirement that the course be provided by an instructor certified by the Attorney General or a law enforcement officer working with the school district the trainee works for

Section 13: Requirements for Getting the SAFER Schools Endorsement

This section amends K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 75-7c05, which concerns the applications for concealed carry licenses in Kansas, so that it must include whether an applicant is applying for the SAFER schools endorsement on their concealed carry license, if applicable. It also states that a person who holds a Kansas concealed carry license can apply for the SAFER schools endorsement by submitting the following things:

  1. a photocopy of their concealed carry license
  2. a photocopy of the applicant’s certificate of completion of the SAFER schools handgun safety and training course
  3. a photocopy of the resolution adopted by the school board allowing the applicant to carry a gun in that school district’s buildings
  4. a statement that the applicant fulfills the necessary criteria
  5. and a “conspicuous warning” that the application is executed under oath and that if you lie on it you are subject to criminal prosecution.

All applicants for this endorsement must pay a non-refundable $50 fee. 90 days after receiving the above documents, the Attorney General must issue a new license with the SAFER schools endorsement or deny the application solely based on the applicants disqualification based on the standard concealed carry license criteria. If the application is denied, the Attorney general must inform the applicant why in writing and provide them with the opportunity for a hearing.

Section 14: Regarding Renewing Concealed Carry Licenses

This section amends the statute concerning the renewal  of concealed  carry licenses. Anyone renewing a license with a SAFER schools endorsement must include certification that they have passed the handgun safety test within the preceding 30 days of a renewal application.

Section 15: Amendments to Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act

This section amends existing Kansas law which forbids public employers from restricting their employees from carrying guns on public property or on the job. This amendment basically states that there will be a “presumption of negligence” if it is shown that the school district didn’t authorize an employee to get the SAFER schools endorsement on their concealed carry license if there’s any action against the school district surrounding the use of firearms.

Section 16: Amendments to the Kansas Open Meetings Act

This section authorizes the governor’s domestic violence fatality review board to discuss matters relating to the authorization of school district employees to carry guns and the designation of SAFER schools endorsement team members.

What Now?

Please attend the hearing in Room 281-N on Tuesday, March 27th at 8am in the Statehouse if you can.

Please also contact your representatives and let them know what you think about this bill.

We will keep you updated as we know more