Some parents upset by purchase of rifles for school officers

In this April 27, 2009 photo, University of Georgia police officers patrol the campus in Athens, Ga., with a semi-automatic rifle during a search for professor George Zinkhan, suspected of killing his ex-wife and two others near campus two days earlier. Federal data and Associated Press interviews and requests for records reveal that at least 100 college police agencies have added rifles over the past decade. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Some parents of Shawnee Mission School District students in eastern Kansas aren’t happy to learn the public school district has bought eight semi-automatic rifles for its school resource officers.

The rifles were bought in 2015, but parents only recently learned of them, the Kansas City Star reported Saturday.

Some parents, like Lisa Veglahn, were unnerved and angered by the discovery.

“I don’t fully believe one person with a bigger, badder gun is really going to make a huge difference in an active shooter situation in a school,” Veglahn said. “Why did they feel it was necessary over other types of weapons?”

Other parents, like Melissa Patt, said the nearly $6,000 purchase was excessive at a time when school budgets are tight.

“It’s pretty offensive to me as a taxpayer to feel like you don’t have any voice and you are being excluded from decisions that could harm your child or kill them,” said Patt, who has three students in the Shawnee Mission district.

But John Douglass, the district’s director of safety and security, and some other parents say a rising threat of active shooter situations in schools makes the high-powered guns necessary.

“This weapon is a very serious weapon for some very limited circumstances,” said Douglass, a former Overland Park Police chief. “You are never going to see it unless something really, really bad is happening.”

Each of seven district resource officers and a supervisor received the rifles. The district’s resource officers have operated separately from municipal police forces since 1972.

Most other local school districts have partnerships with police departments, which arm campus police officers with weapons that any patrol officer might carry, including assault-style weapons.

But the newspaper said the Shawnee Mission School District appears to be the only one in the Kansas City metropolitan area that has purchased assault rifles for its resource officers.

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