Toppenish School District explains the district's armed staff po - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Toppenish School District explains the district's armed staff policy

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TOPPENISH, WA - It's been a week since 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killing 17 people. Since then, the topic of gun control has come to light again, this time questioning if teachers should be allowed to carry concealed weapons.

This type of policy is not new and is already in place in several school districts, and one of them is right here in our region.

We spoke with the superintendent of the Toppenish School District, and he told us why he supports this kind of policy within his schools.

"What's really critical is not arming our people, but making sure that our kids are safe," said John Cerna, "because is it really the school district's job, our principal's job, the vice principal's job to give up their life for your children and most people would say yes, but it's not in their contract. They have a family too. So, if you give them tools, which they can protect their staff and students with, this is what it's all about...providing."

Cerna makes it clear that it's only administrators and directors who are the ones carrying firearms, and not teachers. He also says there is only a total of 19 employees carrying within all 8 of the schools.

Several parents with children in the school district are aware of this, and share why they support a policy like this.

"I think that all measures of security are important, and I think that if that is one measure that we can utilize then I'm okay," said Zelma Walsey, mother of five. "I feel comfortable with the staff; that they've been trained, and they don't let us know who the staff is - we just know the numbers - and I think that in Toppenish it's very unique because we have city, state and tribal police and trying to find the right entity in the quickest amount of time is always the issue here, and so I think that having the staff on hand ready for any situation is a good thing."

"It's a lot better to be safe than sorry...it makes me feel a little more better that my kid is in a safe environment," said Melissa Totus, mother of one. "As long as they are trained and they are properly licensed under it, then it should not be a problem."

The policy has been in place since 2014 and Cerna says there have been no problems so far. As for staff carrying the firearms, he says they are well trained and go through training drills every year.

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