Published by MoASBO, November 2014

The Missouri legislature recently modified the law that governs when firearms may be permitted in schools. As of September, school districts may designate a “School Protection Officer” (SPO) to carry a firearm on school property as long as they have received a specific level of training. (Section 160.665 RSMo). In making this change, lawmakers have recognized that law enforcement personnel may not be able to respond quickly enough to stop an armed attacker from causing devastating injury or death to students and employees. Especially in Missouri’s more rural districts, an extended delay in response by emergency first responders may have terrible consequences.

In the past, the board of education or a district official was capable of permitting individuals with concealed carry permits to carry their concealed firearms into school facilities (section 571.107 RSMo). Now, an individual with a concealed carry permit may also carry a concealed firearm into a school facility as long as that individual is a teacher or administrator in the district and meets the qualifications of a SPO. Thus, there are now two methods by which someone with his or her concealed carry permit may legally carry his or her weapon on school grounds. One of those methods requires that the individual be a teacher or administrator in the district (section 160.665 RSMo); the other does not (section 571.107 RSMo).

The steps necessary to make a teacher or administrator a SPO are not mandatory if a district official or school board merely provides consent to allow the individual to bring his or her firearm into the school facility (section 571.107 RSMo). This may be a course you wish to take if your district wants someone other than a teacher or administrator to carry a firearm on school grounds. However, you should ensure that your district has adequate insurance coverage before pursuing this option.

What must be done to designate a School Protection Officer?

A school district and a potential SPO must comply with several conditions before it may designate a SPO pursuant to section 160.665 RSMo. First, the potential SPO must request a designation in writing and submit the request to the superintendent. At that time, the candidate must submit two essential documents: proof of his or her concealed carry weapon endorsement or permit[1] and a certificate that indicates he or she has successfully completed the Department of Public Safety’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) program for SPOs.[2] POST training requires SPO candidates to attend a one hundred twenty (120) hour program.[3] Furthermore, once a SPO has passed the program and been chosen by the district, he or she must complete twelve (12) hours of annual training to maintain his or her designation. For information about the location of the POST training center that is closest to your district, visit http://dps.mo.gov/dir/programs/post/training.asp.

Then, before a district may designate a teacher or administrator as a SPO, the school board must hold a public hearing on whether to make such a designation. The board must provide notice of that hearing in a local newspaper at least fifteen (15) days before the hearing. Once the board reaches a decision and decides to choose a SPO, there is one more step that must be completed. Within thirty days of designating a SPO, the district must notify the Department of Public Safety of the full name, date of birth, and address of the officer, along with the name of the district and the date such person was designated as a SPO.

Other notable aspects of the new law that districts may want to keep in mind:

  • The district may not use state funds to compensate a SPO;
  • The district may designate more than one SPO at a time;
  • A SPO must always maintain control over his or her firearm while on campus;
  • A SPO may not detain an individual for more than one hour; and
  • The district may revoke an individual’s designation as a SPO for any reason and that individual has no right to appeal that decision.

For those districts that are hesitant about having loaded firearms on campus, there is another less-lethal option available under the new law. SPOs may carry a self-defense spray device in any school building. A self-defense spray device is any mechanism that emits a nonlethal solution capable of incapacitating an attacker. Mace or pepper spray is probably what the legislature had in mind. After holding a public hearing on whether to designate a SPO, the board may decide in closed session if the SPO is permitted to carry a firearm or a self-defense spray device.

The decision to assign a SPO in your district is one that should be given a great amount of thought and consideration. Having a loaded firearm present amongst school children creates several foreseeable hazards. If you do choose to designate a SPO, hopefully this guide simplifies that process. If you are unsure about what is required to designate a SPO in your district, make sure you give legal counsel a call before taking action.

[1] As of August 28, 2013, the Missouri Department of Revenue no longer issues or renews concealed carry weapon endorsements. Now, the authority to issue concealed carry permits is with the local sheriff or sheriff’s designee. Any concealed carry weapon endorsement issued on a Missouri driver license or nondriver ID prior to August 28, 2013, is valid until the expiration of the endorsement.

[2] POST is a regulatory agency that is responsible for the licensure of peace officers, reserve peace officers, basic training instructors, curriculum, and training centers.

[3] This requirement is currently one hundred twelve (112) hours but it will be changed in the near future to include additional training in chemical emission devices.