CODY — The Cody School Board is asking three questions of school district employees that could help determine whether they decide to pass a policy allowing armed staff in schools.
During a work session Tuesday, trustees also tentatively planned a January public input session to give residents a chance to have their say in a public forum.
The three-question survey will go out to school employees within a week, and will ask the following questions:
Which school staff are you a member of?
Do you support the drafting of a policy allowing employees to conceal carry in school buildings in accordance with W.S. 21-3-132?
Would you apply to conceal carry in Park 6 if this policy were to pass?
“I’m very curious to know how people would respond to that,” superintendent Ray Schulte said.
The survey was whittled down from an initial 13-question survey prepared by trustees Stefanie Bell and Jenni Rosencranse. Some of the other questions were deemed not important enough, while others were too divisive.
Rebecca George and others worried that one initial question asking “How safe do you feel at school?” was too general and would garner so many “yes” answers as to make trustees question whether a policy was needed.
Others, including Bell, were against George’s proposed addition of a question asking how safe employees would feel in an active shooter situation.
Schulte said that question would have the opposite effect, with most people instinctively saying no.
In the end, neither question was included.
Trustees also moved forward on receiving input from area experts. After talking with various law enforcement officials over the last couple meetings, this time the district’s attorney Scott Kolpitcke took the stage to go through trustee Scott Weber’s proposed draft policy and answer questions.
A big issue that a few trustees said would be a key to them in deciding how to vote was performing a psychological evaluation on all school concealed carry applicants. In particular, chair Kelly Simone and Rosencranse said requiring a psychological evaluation would be “very important” to whether or not they would vote yes.
Trustee Tom Keegan, who has previously stated he is not in favor of armed staff in schools, said if a policy were passed, he would also very much like to see psychological evaluations.
The evaluation was included in Weber’s draft policy and was one of the most-discussed points, with Kolpitcke saying it could come with a lot of potential legal pitfalls if an applicant were denied primarily on the basis of a diagnosis made during the evaluation.
“It’s opening a can of worms that could be really difficult to deal with,” he said.
However, he agreed with Rosencranse, who formerly worked with the city, that an evaluation like that of the Cody Police Department focused primarily on traits could work.
“Results didn’t tell us if they passed or didn’t, it was ‘here are the traits you should be aware of if you choose this person for the position,’” Rosencranse said. “To my knowledge I don’t believe it diagnosed anybody. It did have a fitness for duty criteria: Under high stress, intense situation, would this person be able to reasonably react to a situation?”
Kolpitcke suggested reaching out to other states that have adopted similar policies to see if there were any that require psychological evaluations to determine their methods.
Weber said he would be reaching out to those states, and specifically communities, that have adopted policies to share a glimpse of how it’s going generally in those locations.
“I’ll call and talk to people who have done this and will report back to you,” he said. “And I can tell you what they’re going to say – it’s going wonderfully.”
He said he’d bring those observations back to the board at a future meeting.
Weber, who served on the state education committee that prepared non-regulatory guidance on the issue, also displayed his frustration with the time it has taken to move forward on a proposed policy. This was echoed by trustee Bill Struemke.
“Every month we’ve put this off because we’ve got more questions. It seems to people I talk to like a delay tactic,” he said. “I think we should try to sit down and find something more amenable to everyone. That means we have something to talk about, whether we’ll pass it or not.
“I don’t want to see it die, before it even becomes [a policy].”
Bell countered there are still a lot of important questions needed to be answered before moving forward. She said she wouldn’t support the policy currently.
“I will continue to ask questions, seek clarity, that’s the process I’m going through,” she said. “Questions are being answered. It’s hard, there seems like such a push that somehow or another we’re behind. We’re not.”
Some of her questions could possibly be answered at the next meeting, as all trustees were directed to email questions to Simone, who would then forward those to the appropriate officials.
Those answers, along with survey results, could help bring trustees closer to a decision, one way or another.