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An inside look at a rural school district that has armed teachers

Officials in a rural school district in Missouri talked about why they armed at least two teachers amid a national debate about school shootings.
/ Source: TODAY

The question of whether to arm teachers against potential school shooters was answered at this rural Missouri school four years ago.

Natalie Morales visited the Dora R-III school district in Missouri to get a look at a school that armed its teachers well before the current national debate about school shootings.

"I feel that the staff members that are armed would try their best to stop it or put their life on the line so that the students wouldn't get hurt,'' Dora Elementary School principal Brett Mitchell told Morales.

Students across the country have protested against school violence and called for stricter gun regulations in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month. Tens of thousands of people were planning to attend the March For Our Lives event in Washington on Saturday.

President Trump and the National Rifle Organization have instead called for arming teachers to stop school shooters. The Dora district decided to take that step in 2014.

At least two school employees, whom Dora Superintendent Steve Richards declined to identify, have gone through a weeklong firearms training program with a local security company.

"We were looking at temperament,'' school board president Ed Lee said on TODAY. "Can you make the decision under pressure?"

Those employees are permitted to carry concealed weapons on the campus of the K-12 school of 300 students near the Ozarks. They are part of a group of school employees who are armed in at least a dozen states across hundreds of school districts, most of them small and rural.

Dora district officials also noted that decision to arm teachers also involved the remote location of the school, which is at least 30 minutes away from the nearest police station.

"No matter what, the person that is trained on this campus is closer than the local law enforcement,'' Mitchell said.

While critics have argued that teachers are already overworked and underpaid to now ask them to be trained in firearms, Dora kindergarten teacher Jamie King feels there is no other option.

"With these students, they're our kids at that point,'' she said. "We will do what it takes to take care of them, and if that's an added responsibility, to make sure that they're safe, that's what you gotta do."

No armed teachers have ever stopped a school shooter. A school resource officer who is part of the local police department was commended for helping quickly end a school shooting on Tuesday in Maryland by firing at the gunman, authorities said.

However, there have also been mishaps. On March 13, a teacher in Seaside, California, accidentally fired his weapon in the middle of a gun safety demonstration in a classroom, injuring three students.

Officials in Dora say their armed employees are prepared to do whatever is necessary to stop a school shooter. Morales asked if they would be prepared to shoot a student if it came to that.

"We don't discuss that part,'' Richards said. "I'm saying we would do our best to stop the threat and limit any further activity from the gunman."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.