Bill to Arm Kansas Teachers Hearing: Complete Recap

The Kansas House Insurance Committee had a hearing on HB 2789, the bill to arm teachers, this morning at 8 am. Here’s the full audio of the hearing, but below you will find a full recap of what happened leading up to the hearing on HB 2789 and the hearing itself:

Leading up to the hearing

The bill was introduced on Wednesday, March 21st and a hearing wasn’t scheduled for it until Friday, March 23rd. The rules for submitting testimony in the Insurance Committee are sending a PDF and submitting 50 paper copies to the committee secretary at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing to be allowed to testify. Because the hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, March 27th at 8 am, that meant that all testimony had to be in by Monday morning at 8 am. The Insurance Committee usually meets later in the day, but they moved the hearing to 8am. That, combined with the quick turnaround date for getting testimony in, was likely an intentional effort to keep Kansas educators from testifying.

Representative Brett Parker sent out a petition and started gathering testimony for the hearing and was kind to print copies of testimony for folks wanting to participate:

Thankfully, the committee secretary extended the deadline to submit hard copies of the testimony until 11 am on Monday morning. It took 7 people and multiple tables to organize over 15,000 pages of testimony received.

This is what the stack of opposition testimony handed to each Representative looked like:

The Hearing Itself

Originally, the hearing was scheduled to be in Room 281-N, but they moved it to 112-N on Monday afternoon because it’s a bigger room. Chairman Vickrey said he would give 30 minutes for proponents, time for questions, then 30 minutes for opponents followed by questions, however  he gave more time per person to the proponents of the bill and did not allow multiple people on the opponent conferee list to testify.

Representative Blake Carpenter Testimony

The first conferee was Representative Blake Carpenter. He proposed 2 amendments to the bill:

  1. The removal of the negligence presumption portion, because he wants to go into effect as soon as possible.
  2. Changing the actuarial principles portion of the bill because the insurance companies can say whether they want to provide coverage or not and it’s an overreach.

He argued, “It is not if our kids will be killed, it’s when our kids will be killed” before insisting that there is plenty of training along with the bill without specifying what that training would be. Then, he quoted this scene from the movie American Sniper completely unironically:

Senator Ty Masterson Testimony

Senator Ty Masterson, who has not taken money from the NRA but has used a portion of his campaign contributions to pay for his NRA membership, testified next. He said, “This bill does not militarize our teachers” and that “that’s just wrong.” He said that most shootings happen in gun free zones and we make our kids soft targets, and that it would be OK if nobody carried, but everybody believed that they did. He argued that this bill seeks to train teachers and create “meaningful safety plans for our kids.” He then mentioned the insurance piece and said that it’s in this committee because of that. He argued that the actuarial rates should be lower because there will be guns in the schools instead of higher, citing the false assumption that guns make people safer.

Jason Watkins, Kansas State Rifle Association Testimony

Next, Jason Watkins with the Kansas State Rifle Association testified in favor of the bill. They see the bill as “a common sense enhancement to a common sense law that protects our teachers and students.” He brought up that it’s already state law that we are allowed to arm teachers. He also wants to amend the presumption of negligence on a school district and concedes that’s “probably a bridge too far.” He cited K.S.A. 75-7c10, which is the Kansas law that allows Kansas teachers to carry now at the discretion of the school board. He said that 10 states allow school staff to carry guns and 7 states are currently considering this legislation. He also said that this has been law for years, without incident. He did not mention the fact that no school boards have elected to allow teachers to carry because the insurance companies refused to cover them if they allowed guns in school. He then quoted a parent who told him that she feels safer with guns near her children.

Joseph Clay, Wichita Math Teacher Testimony

Joseph Clay, a math teacher at Southeast High School, a part of Wichita Public Schools, and an Iraq war veteran wants to carry a gun into his math class. Speaking in the memory his fellow servicemen who have died protecting the United States, Mr. Clay said that “violence and coercion are plaguing our children where they should feel the safest, their school.” He says that as a parent and as a teacher, he fully supports this bill and “dispose the notion that concealed carry is not the answer. He “believes that it’s the best solution.” He also said that “it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when we’ll pack the graves with students.” He says it would be his “honor and duty” to protect the children it’s his job to educate. He said his words were spoken from a place from concern and knowledge of what it’s like to “stand down an aggressor” and insisted that our children are not safe here on campuses in Kansas. He mentioned some of his own kids, and said one of them has a “temper like his daddy.”

Ken Grommet Testimony

Ken Grommet was in the Marine Corps and spent 25 years in the Derby police force. He stated that he was asked to speak about this because what “we are doing now is not enough” and he’s qualified to speak to this issue. He said school resource officers in schools have not worked. Locks, barriers, and systems like that have not worked.  In Kansas, he argued, we do “a better job of guarding dirt than guarding our kids.” He admitted he didn’t understand why we would say that we don’t want staff members to be armed, and that a couple of private schools in Wichita have already armed their teachers. He said that we need layers of security, and arming teachers can be one of those layers.

There was also written proponent testimony submitted. We have heard that there were a total of 9 written and oral testimonies on the proponent side, but we will confirm those numbers once they are actually all officially accounted for and make it easy for you to access all the written testimony, since the Kansas Legislature website is very difficult to navigate.

Questions for the Proponents

Hawkin’s Question of Senator Masterson

Representative Hawkins asked Sen Masterson whether the insurance portion of the bill is right. Hawkins said that many of the insurance carriers for our schools are regional and not national, and that we are kind of insulated in the Midwest. Masterson, who has never actually had any actuarial training or worked in the insurance business as far as we know, said that insurance carriers “have a problem understanding the risk.”  Senator Masterson said he is okay with any amendment that would provide the right solution because he wants “sound actuarial data.” He said he is also okay with amending the presumption of negligence portion in order to remove the “disincentive” from the insurance perspective.

Parker’s Question of Ken Grommet

Representative Parker then asked Mr. Grommet: “if school resource officers haven’t prevented school shootings, why should we expect a history teacher?” Grommet responded that it takes a long time to for police to get to schools during a school shooting. Parker then asked why it’s qualitatively different if a teacher has a gun as opposed to a school resource officer. Grommet said that it’s because teachers are there every day. Joseph Clay then spoke out of turn and said that his school is about half a mile long and there’s only one resource officer, that the school resource officers are only carrying batons and mace, and that he doesn’t understand what they are supposed to do with that to fight against an active shooter.

Neighbor’s Question of Joseph Clay

Representative Neighbor then asked Joseph Clay, “You were in the military, correct? When you were trained, there are a couple of rules when you’re military personnel. You’re not allowed to carry guns on base, correct?” He said that guns are kept in armory, but they are allowed to get them when there’s an issue. Neighbor responded that a handgun is not equipped to go against an AR-15. Clay replied that “it is in the hands of an armed professional.” Neighbor said that military personnel undergo mental health evaluations and she doesn’t see one in this bill. Neighbor said that she doesn’t think this is a good idea.

Neighbor’s Question of Senator Masterson

Neighbor then asked this question of Senator Masterson: “when you look at liability insurance, how many companies are willing to provide liability insurance to schools?” Masterson didn’t know. Neighbor said “Two.” She said that they can deny to cover schools and that there really isn’t the availability. Masterson said that’s a false assumption and that insurance is there to make money and that if you have a client, you will find a carrier. He also mentioned other states. Neighbor said that different states have different gun laws that we do and that “we are not Texas.” Masterson repeated a line he said earlier about how we “have a culture that creates soft targets.”

Question of Ken Grommet

Another representative asked Ken Grommet, “how many of the teachers who are looking for a SAFER schools endorsement would you pass?” Grommet said, “all of them if they fit the qualifications.” He said that they would provide basic training for them, bring them up to where they could be very proficient with the firearm. He’s asking teachers to volunteer and that “we’re not arming everybody.” He said that we have a lot of teachers who teach shooting sports and that they are “better than I am.”

Hodge’s Question of Joseph Clay

Representative Hodge then asked Joseph Clay about his image of the “pile of students” that he mentioned in his earlier testimony and that he wanted to look at the Ft. Hood massacre. Hodge said that at a military base, there’s lots of trained people and lots of weapons. “How did that happen?” Hodge asked. Clay said he can’t speak for Ft. Hood because he served at a different base. Hodge then replied that it looks like guns everywhere was tried at Ft. Hood and that everyone was a soldier there, but we had that many people massacred there. “How does your solution work when we’ve already seen what happened at Ft. Hood in 2009?” Clay then apologized for getting a little aggressive when responding to Representative Neighbor’s question earlier. He said that kids have done nothing, but the people at Ft. Hood were adults who chose to do that work. Clay then said “Massacres are going to happen, do we get to stop those deaths from happening? I for one am going to get the students out. We’ve had 2 threats this year.” He said “I’m going to get the students out, then I’m going to take things into my own hands.” Representative Dove, who left his gun on the floor of a committee room in 2017, said that Ft. Hood is a “gun free zone.”

Cox’s Question of Jason Watkins

Representative Cox then asked three questions of Mr. Watkins from the Kansas State Rifle Association: “Do you know how many school shootings have happened in Kansas?” and “If we’ve had this policy [Kansas has allowed teachers to be armed since 2013], why it spread?” and “do we actually create an increased risk of misfires?” Mr. Watkins said he went to Goddard Elementary School and then transferred to Valley Center. Right after he transferred, there was a shooting at Goddard. He admitted that “of course opportunities for mishaps increase when there are more guns, just like more auto accidents are possible when there’s more cars on the road.” He said that a couple of weeks ago in California, a teacher in a district without guns allowed brought a gun to class and showed the students how to clean a gun. That person was a trained law enforcement officer. He said that we are not able to point to any incidents with teachers that concealed carry since 2007.

Finney’s Question of Jason Watkins

Representative Finney then mentioned that there’s already a shortage of teachers in Kansas and that we may actually lose teachers as a result of this law. She asks Mr. Watkins if there will be an exodus of teachers because of this. He said he’s not aware of any teachers who have quit because of this since 2013. He said that it should make people feel better because there’s provisions for training. He said that there’s also provisions in the bill to create a safety plan with local law enforcement. He also said, “there needs to be more of those conversations and all of us need to sit down and try to remove the emotion from what is clearly a very emotional issue.”

Opponent Testimony

The first opponent was Mark Desetti from the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA). He said that KNEA is strongly opposed to this legislation. He also said that it only took 6 minutes for the Parkland shooter to kill all of those people. He said that when he was a teacher for 13 years, they did many earthquake drills. He said that his job during those drills was to keep kids from panicking and trying to keep them from being out from under their desks. He said that it’s “not an easy thing” to keep kids safe during a drill, and that’s his first thing to keep the kids safe. He then said that the next thing he should do under this bill is get his gun. He said that it’s probably going to be someplace not on his person, he’ll have to go to his gun safe, make sure it’s loaded, get the safety off, all while continuing to yell at the kids to stay where they should be, and probably going up against a shooter with an AR-15 and a bump stock, and that he’s going to be dead, away from his students. He then said, “Don’t expect me as a teacher to save the day. I’m not a superhero.” He said his son, a serviceman, was not armed with a handgun in the military, he was in an armored vehicle. Desetti returned to his scenario, stating that he’s now dead in the hall and he’s going to get his name engraved on the memorial to fallen educators in Emporia, Kansas and that they will have to add more tablets to that memorial to fit all the names. He then mentioned the school shootings in Jonesboro, Arkansas and Stockton, California. He said, “Why are we OK that massacres are going to happen? What are we going to do? There are things we can do to prevent massacres. We should look at real things.” He then brought up the idea that the “teacher would volunteer.” He said that Representative Carpenter said the school board would decide. What if the school board decides there will be a teacher with a gun in every grade level and said “Mark, we need a 4th grade teacher” and “because we have no job protections in Kansas, I get fired for not carrying a gun in my classroom.” He also mentioned how Scotland and Australia both lowered their rates of gun violence.

Rick Atha, Superintendent of Shawnee Mission School District Testimony

Rick Atha stood on behalf of the Shawnee Mission School District. He said that they are opposed to the idea of a special endorsement that would allow staff to carry a concealed weapon in their schools. He also opposed Section 15c2 which threatens school districts if they fail to arm their teachers. He said that teachers and students must feel safe. He said in the Shawnee Mission School District, they instituted a state of the art safety plan, without arming staff or the threat of this legislation. He then said, “Arming teachers is not the answer.” He quotes a teacher, “adding guns to our schools creates more opportunities for them to be in the hands of students.” He believes that they are providing all the protection available while focusing on their purpose- teaching and educating the children. He said that the Board of Education is opposed to it, that his administration is firmly opposed to it, and that their teachers are opposed to it.

Mark Tallman, Kansas Association of School Boards Testimony

Mark Tallman, of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said that this is the first time in 30 years he’s ever been in front of the Insurance Committee. He said his primary reason for opposing this bill is the negligence clause. He doesn’t think the state should be involved in pushing this in one direction or another. He said, “sections 1-3 and 7 in this bill are very similar to HB 2773. We appreciate the way that was amended” and he said they want them to use the language in HB 2773. He also said that their membership have not considered what is in New Section 5, which deals with the creation of the SAFER endorsement on the concealed carry license, so they are neutral on that. Of New Section 6, which concerns insurance rates, Tallman stated their primary concern was that “there must be some reason” that insurance companies don’t want to provide this insurance and KSAB is concerned about who would provide liability insurance to schools. There are only 2 or 3 insurance companies providing this kind of coverage and if one were to leave that market it would make it less competitive.

David Smith, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools Testimony

First, Chief Horn was called up, but David Smith of Kansas City Kansas Public Schools took the stand. He said that he frequently gets asked by reporters how they determine when to close schools for inclement weather. He said that they have to answer 2 questions for inclement weather: “Can we insure our students get there safely?” and “Can we get them home safely?” It’s only when they can answer both of those questions that they have school.  He said that their board has been active and have made sure that they have the ability to respond to situations to keep the kids safe.  He said they passed a bond issue in November 2016, and as part of that, they are upgrading the security of every single building in the district. He said they also put into place the standard response protocol. He said one of the parents of a child killed in the Columbine Shooting created the I Love U Guys Foundation, which created the standard response protocol.  He said they have created resources and research with regard to school safety, and they have many different responses. He then explained lock out and lock down procedures. He said for a lock out, they lock the doors so no one can get in or out and continue with their day. For a lock down, there are locks on every door and they do “lights, locked, out of sight.” When the situation is over, they do not open the doors. It will be opened by someone with a key, and everyone in the school understands that. The local police know that. Smith said they practice this, it’s very clear, and the thing they worry most about is somebody not following that standard response protocol. He said that they have very strict protocols that they follow and that they do it to insure everyone is safe.

Nikki McDonald, Olathe Public Education Network Testimony

Nikki McDonald, executive director of the Olathe Public Education Network,  gave testimony on behalf of that organization. She is a former first grade and English as a second language teacher. She’s a current stay at home mom, and has fallen into an organizing role. She said that this bill got her off her couch and spurred her to action. She went to the March for Our Lives in Kansas City, Missouri. She heard students and teachers who said, “please listen to us.” She said that many teachers were not able to come today because they are teaching at 8 am on a Tuesday. She said that as a teacher, she wouldn’t be comfortable teaching with this, and that having guns would not make them more safe. She said our students are having crises and there are not resources available to the degree that there should be.  “Please don’t ask more of our teachers,” she pleaded of the Insurance Committee. She said that in Olathe they have the ALICE protocol, there are drills and room for improvement, but districts are already doing the things that need to be done. She also mentioned Joseph Clay’s comment that his son has “a temper like his daddy.” That comment gave her “serious pause.” Before closing her testimony, she added, “you can’t be pro-business and punitive like this” regarding the insurance issue.

Lesa Patterson-Kinsey, Mainstream Coalition Testimony

Lesa Patterson-Kinsey spoke on behalf of Mainstream Coalition, who also opposes the passage of this bill. She said that students have made their opinions clear this past weekend, alluding to the March for Our Lives. She said that more guns does not reduce gun violence and that Mainstream Coalition urges the legislature to enact common sense gun legislation. “Help our children, don’t imprison them in their school buildings,” she said.

Joella Hoye, Moms Demand Action Testimony

Joella Hoye, Kansas chapter leader for Moms Demand Action, also opposed this bill. She said that she was there to share her experience during a lockdown with 40 kindergartners. She volunteers in her son’s classroom every week, and happened to be there during a lockdown one afternoon. She said that she placed herself against the inside door of the storage closet hiding the students. She said the teachers did everything right, and the kids were kept quiet and calm by doing silent hand motions together and they all knew what to do. She said she had to do the motions too. She barricaded herself against the door in order to hopefully block bullets from students in case something was actually going to happen, and she thought that at least she was there with her son. She said that it ended up being a prank, and there was no actual threat, but her fear was real and seeing those children’s faces in fear was real and this is far too common in our country. She closed by saying that we should be here to talk about sensible legislation, and not about arming our teachers.

Rabbi Moti Rieber, Kansas Interfaith Action Testimony

Rabbi Moti Rieber said that Kansas Interfaith Action represents many religious denominations, and that they all decry the loosening of gun laws. He said he believes that this bill addresses a symptom and not the larger problem in our society. He also said we do have solutions to school shootings: universal background checks, banning assault weapons, and red flag laws. He then said, “the legislature’s response to gun violence is more guns, and that’s a mistake and causes the problem it intends to solve.” He said that since 2010, the legislature has forced guns into libraries and college campuses and is now trying to force guns into K-12 schools. He closed by stating, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This is insane. This is doing it again and expecting a different result. Facts not politics, people are saying, ‘facts not politics.’ More guns equals more gun violence, and that is fact, not politics.”

Ruth Ann Hodgsen Testimony

Ruth Ann Hodgsen is an attorney and a mother of a kid at a Kansas City Kansas school district. She said that as an attorney, who reads legislation as her job, will explain why this bill is very bad public policy. She said that while this bill is styled as a matter of choice, this bill will not provide much choice. She said that she understands that our schools have different demands and community resources. She said it really should be a community by community choice. She said as it stands now, this is a mandate for a one-sized fits all approach. She said that the draconian notion of the negligence clause would mean districts would have little choice to offer employees to carry concealed firearms. “This is not choice. This is coercion.” She said that school districts would have no ability to choose who is armed in a school district, The act provides that any employee who has obtained this endorsement shall be authorized to carry a gun. She said that in Texas, school boards have control over who would be armed. Here, Kansas would have no say over who could carry, they couldn’t screen which employees. They would have absolutely no control over who could carry. She mentions the amount of training that police officers require. She said that as it stands now, this bill only requires 1 8-hour training session every 4 years. She said that the bill does not contain mandates on what requirements would be required of the Attorney General. She said that this bill should be contrasted to Texas law, which has much more stringent requirements than this law. She said that Texas law requires firearms be kept in lockboxes unless it’s an active shooter situation. She said that it doesn’t provide any methods for revoking a license. She said that the school district would have no means to keep a teacher from continuing to carry a gun to school, even after using it to threaten a student.

Jennifer Bowles Testimony

Jennifer Bowles, Shawnee Mission School District mom and attorney in Lenexa, testified on behalf of a Shawnee Mission School District-related PAC, said that people overwhelmingly do not support arming teachers and that teachers will leave the state over this law . She urged the committee to oppose the bill.

Megan Peters, Parent Testimony

Megan Peters, parent to 2 elementary school children in the Shawnee Mission School district said that Shawnee Mission held a forum on guns for teachers, parents, students and community members. She said a teacher, David Mohammed stated that if he has to patrol around with a gun that he’ll no longer be an effective teacher. She refers to the negligence clause mentioned by other conferees, and that the school would be liable if they don’t arm their teachers. She feels that the bill is a horrible idea  and stated that she opposes this bill.

Nick Diegel, Parent Testimony

Nick Diegel, parent of a Blue Valley student, said that about gun safety, research shows that guns in the presence of children triples of the risk of suicide and doubles the risk of homicide. He stated, “that not acceptable in our schools.” He said that the way this is written that it seems like an attempt to get kids out of public school. He thinks it’s an attempt to get parents to say they will home school or leave Kansas. He said that another part that concerns him is the section that would make the list of teachers confidential. It would give a misdemeanor offense for encouraging the disclosure of which teachers are carrying, and said he’ll “strap his civil disobedience boots on and stand in front of the Board every day to find out which of his kids teachers are carrying and wait to see if he gets charged with a misdemeanor. He also alluded to Representative Dove, a member of the committee who left his gun in a committee room in 2017, before closing.

Emily Votiker, Parent Testimony

Emily Votiker is a parent of a student and a current secretary at a Lawrence school. She said that it’s safe to say that her family might leave the state of Kansas. She understands that concealed carry is already a law in Kansas and that doesn’t mean she agrees with it. She said she sees very few people who are actually in classrooms and schools during active shooter drills. She implores them to listen to our students, teachers, educators. She says she “gets a little worked up maybe because you guys should be talking to educators” and said that it’s “very sneaky” that they snuck this bill in.

Tonya Boyd, Mother and Grandmother Testimony

Tonya Boyd told the story of her daughter who was murdered with a gun and left behind two children. She said that her two-year-old granddaughter would follow her around to every room because she “didn’t want [her] to leave her like her mom did and never come back.” She said it’s been really hard raising her with the issues that she has. “We cannot go out in a public place where there’s people who are carrying guns.” She said that they were at Cici’s Pizza and there was a guy who had a gun and her granddaughter was very concerned about it and wanted to leave. She also recalled another time where her granddaughter came home from school and said “I don’t want to ever go back to that school again” because “somebody is going to come into my school and shoot me.” Her granddaughter told her that she was told at school to throw books and pencils at a teacher. Ms. Boyd said that she told her that she should lay down and act dead. She said she would take her grandchildren out of school if they pass this bill and she doesn’t want to subject her granddaughter to trauma every time she goes to school.

Chairman Vickrey mentioned that there was a lot of written testimony on the bill, then shifted to questions.

Questions of the Opponents

Corbet’s question of Mr. Tallman

Rep. Corbet then asked of Mr. Tallman from the KSAB, “Would you be open to maybe doing some type of firearms education in public schools?” like the Eddie Eagle program. Tallman said that they are supportive of the provision that allows the schools to follow guidelines for firearms education, but they want local control of that.

Corbet’s question of Ruth Ann

Representative Corbet asked, “if this bill was changed to be more like the Texas model, would you be more inclined to support it?” Ruth Ann said that if you are going to pass anything, it should have more requirements like the Texas model.

Eplee’s Question of Mark Desetti

Representative Eplee asked Mark Desetti of the KNEA, “On connecting the dots on coercing teachers to carry, I hadn’t considered that before, so that’s interesting. If we removed the section on presumption of negligence, would that do anything about the coercion piece?” Desetti said that’s a separate provision. Desetti said that he sees the negligence clause forces school boards to be guilty until proven innocent for negligence because they don’t have guns. Eplee asked, “if the negligence piece is taken out, will it diminish the coerciveness?” Desetti said no.

Cox’s question for Dr. Atha

Cox said that they heard a lot today about solutions, “not-solutions” and mental health. He said he thinks they’ve lost more students to suicide in the last year than school shootings in the last 100. He asked about funding for mental health and counseling for students in our public schools. Atha said that the growing mental health issues facing the state of Kansas are growing and increasing dramatically. He said that the state has had to make several cuts to school districts and that some of those cuts have fallen in the area of mental health and counseling. He said that he thinks if some of the funding was earmarked for counselors. If they put a counselor in all of their elementary schools, it would cost 2.3 million dollars. He said they are short 10 social workers in elementary buildings, and it would cost them $680,000 to have social workers in every building in Shawnee Mission schools.

Parker’s question for Dr. Atha or David Smith

Representative Parker asked either Dr. Atha or David Smith, both of the conferees representing school districts, “what would you think would happen if there were a shooting and law enforcement came but there were teachers, adults with guns, when law enforcement arrives?” David Smith said that according to their response protocol, law enforcement expect to see no one not behind a locked door and it could open the door for a serious accident.

Powell’s question for Rabbi Moti Rieber

Representative Powell asked Rabbi Moti Rieber, “You had mentioned the definition of insanity talking about more guns and more violence, but I would like to ask you a question. Do you know what’s in common from 1950 to today with regard to mass shootings, over 98% have one thing in common, would you like to know what they’ve had in common?” Rabbi Moti Rieber said he’s heard this talking point before and that it’s a false talking point. He said he’ll speak with him later, but that 98% talking point is false. Representative Powell said that it’s not false and that it’s ignorant and more than ignorant to ignore “gun free zones” and “soft targets.” Representative Powell said there have been no issues with guns in schools. He said that “coercion or force teachers into this, but it’s voluntary

Bishop’s questions for Mark Desetti

Representative Bishop said “Public school teachers are not sheep . . . do you believe that school teachers really need to stay with their students when there’s a lockdown situation or any kind of threat?” Mark Desetti said he absolutely believes that and that his commitment as a teacher is to stay with the students and keep them calm and safe. He says his kids don’t need him to walk away from them at that time, they need him to be “their rock.” Bishop asked a second question, “Do you believe we need more training for teachers to be able to do that? Perhaps more training to recognize issues with students?” Desetti said his organization has supported every bill to train teachers to spot red flags and mental health issues. They absolutely believe in teacher training, and that they also believe “it is critically important to sufficiently staff schools with counselors and social workers.” He said that there’s a lot of stress in this world and they would like to increase dramatically the number of counselors and social workers in schools in order to get children the help they need.

Hodge’s questions of Mark Desetti and Mark Tallman

Hodge asked Mark Desetti and Mark Tallman, “what are your intentions as far as negotiating salary for someone who gets this supplemental? Is this a $40,000 a year job?” Tallman said that he may disagree with Desetti, but if being armed is not part of your regular duty and assignments, this arguably would be considered a supplemental contract and that they would be expected to pay teachers to do that and that this bill doesn’t speak to that at all and this would be charting new ground if this did happen. Tallman said, “Wouldn’t you agree?” Desetti made a sound and then said, “I want to make a point very, very clear. We don’t want to be paid to carry guns. We want to be paid to teach. That’s what we really want,” drawing applause from the audience. He said “the bottom line is Kansas teachers are among the worst paid teachers in the United States right now. Let’s pay teachers to teach and let our school resource officers, school district police officers handle security. let’s back a bill like 2773 that does address security issues, security plans and safety plans, but let’s let teachers teach and let’s pay them to do it. Hodge said, “I agree with you but unfortunately I’m not sure the entire body of the House would.”

Denial of Conferee Testimony

Chair Vickrey said, “This will close our hearing on House Bill 2789.  Sorry, we’re out of time and the House session starts at 10.” Megan Jones then went to the stand and said, “Quickly, I was not given the opportunity to testify and I’m on the list,” as the microphone was turned off and the committee started leaving the room.

The House Session

Right after the hearing, they discussed the other bill, HB 2773 on the House floor and there were several amendment attempts. We will address this in another post to be published tomorrow. Please stay tuned as there are likely to be many updates on these bills and other gun bills this week.

Kansas Might Force Insurance Agencies to Cover Teachers Carrying Guns

The Kansas House Insurance Committee will have a hearing on a bill arming Kansas teachers on Tuesday March 27, 2018. This bill, HB 2789, does a lot of things, so we took the 28-page bill and broke it down and let you know which parts to pay attention to. The section requiring insurance companies to cover schools allowing employees to carry guns is such an important part of the story of arming teachers in Kansas, that we thought it deserved its own post.

Insurance Mandate

If HB 2789 or its Senate equivalent SB 434 passes, insurance companies will be prohibited from charging “unfair discriminatory premiums, policy fees or rates” or refusing to provide insurance coverage to a school district because that school district allows their employees to concealed carry guns on the premises. This means that insurance companies will be forced to absorb the extra costs associated with allowing teachers and other school staff to carry guns at school. Here’s the full text of Section 6:

New Sec. 6. (a) No insurance company shall charge unfair discriminatory premiums, policy fees or rates for, or refuse to provide, any policy or contract of real or personal property insurance, liability insurance or policy containing liability coverage for any unified school district solely because such school district authorizes employees of such school district to carry concealed handguns on the premises of schools and attendance centers operated by such school district, unless the rate differential, or refusal to provide, is based on sound actuarial principles or is related to actual or reasonably anticipated experience. No insurance company shall unfairly discriminate in the payments of dividends, other benefits payable under a policy, or in any of the terms and conditions of such policy or contract solely because the school district that is the owner of the policy or contract authorizes employees of such school district to carry concealed handguns on the premises of schools and attendance centers operated by such school district, unless the difference is based on sound actuarial principles or is related to actual or reasonably anticipated experience. (b) Enforcement of the provisions of this section shall be in accordance with article 24 of chapter 40 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated, and amendments thereto.

The writers of this bill likely included this section in response to what happened in 2013, when Kansas first passed a law allowing teachers to carry guns at school. That 2013 law was part of a wave of legislation to arm teachers reacting to the Sandy Hook massacre that took the lives of 26 people, including 20 young children.

This current bill is a reaction to the February 14th shooting at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, in which 17 people were murdered with an AR-15. After lawmakers expressed their thoughts and prayers for the victims during the House session on February 22nd, Republicans announced that they would come up with a more “comprehensive school safety plan.”

In 2013, EMC Insurance, which covered 90% of Kansas schools, recognized the heightened liability risk of allowing guns at school and told their agents that they would no longer cover schools that allow their employees to concealed carry.

The other two insurance carriers also stated that they would no longer cover schools allowing guns in 2013.

In part because of this potential loss of insurance coverage, Kansas school boards did not allow teachers to concealed carry guns at school. This is the only reason why we currently do not have teachers allowed to carry hidden, loaded handguns at our schools in Kansas. This bill would change that, forcing insurance companies to provide these schools with insurance.

The bill forbids “discriminatory” premiums, but it is unclear what exactly would be considered discriminatory. Because some Kansas lawmakers have attempted to pass bills to make carrying a gun a protected class, like race or religion, it is possible that this could be interpreted to mean that they can’t deny coverage or raise rates based on the presence of a gun period if they are successful in passing such a law.

Additionally, this bill will remove all personal injury and property damage liability from law enforcement officers for anything that they may do as a result of the requirements in the bill, and will require that their court costs and attorney fees be paid. Who will absorb that cost?

What you can do

This insurance mandate is just one of many problems with this bill. Please attend the hearing on HB 2789 on Tuesday at 8am in Room 281-N at the Kansas Statehouse and contact the House Insurance Committee.

Here’s the contact information for the Kansas House Insurance Committee:

Chair Rep. Jene Vickrey

Phone: 785-296-7748

Vice-Chair Rep. Willie Dove

Phone: 785 296-7677

Ranking Minority Leader Rep. Cindy Neighbor

Phone: 785 296-7690

Rep. Elizabeth Bishop

Phone: 785 296-5016

Rep. Ken Corbet

Phone: 785 296-7679

Rep. Tom Cox

Phone: 785 296-7331

Rep. Roger Elliott

Phone: 785 296-7476

Rep. John Eplee

Phone: 785 296-8621

Rep. Gail Finney

Phone: 785 296-7649

Rep. Daniel Hawkins

Phone: 785 296-7631

Rep. Tim Hodge

Phone: 785 296-2361

Rep. Jim Kelly

Phone: 785 296-6014

Rep. Boyd Orr

Phone: 785 296-7392

Rep. Brett Parker

Phone: 785 296-5413

Rep. Randy Powell

Phone: 785-296-5593

Rep. Adam Smith

Phone: 785 296-0715

Rep. Frank Trimboli

Phone: 785-296-7654

We’ll be posting more information about this bill and updates as we get them.