A school district in rural Oklahoma has decided to permit the presence of guns on campus in order to deter violence.
Okay Public Schools in Wagoner County is one of the only school districts in Oklahoma to allow teachers and staff to legally bring guns on campus.
Superintendent Charles McMahan told KOTV News that small school districts typically do not have police officers on the premises. Only one deputy patrols the entire town, and about 400 children comprise the student population at Okay Elementary, Junior High, and High School.
“Being a small, rural school, we’ve always been trying to figure out what’s best for our kids security-wise,” McMahan said, as reported by BH Media Group.
The school system set up four signs on campus to prevent unwanted visitors from instigating violence among the district. “Please be aware that certain staff members at Okay Public Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students,” the signs read.
"If something were to ever happen and I didn't try to defend my kids, I couldn't live with that," McMahan told KOTV News. "That's kind of why we put this in place."
“[The signs] might be enough to send somebody down the road looking for some other soft target,” McMahan explained. “If that’s what it does, it’s helping our school district out.”
The local community has been mostly supportive of the new security initiative.
"Our kids need to be safe here on campus because we are such a rural area," said Lucretia Echols, grandmother of three students. "Law enforcement is so far away."
The requirements for the program exceed those of state police; armed staff members are to possess a concealed carry license and be certified by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training. The weapons must also be concealed on their person or placed inside a locked box.
McMahan said the district is willing to adjust the program should they determine that the policy has an unmet need.
"Whether these people realize it or not, all of these kids are our kids," McMahan stated. "I treat every one of these kids as though they're mine."