Sen. Kolb Sponsors Bill to Reimburse Costs Associated with Firearms in Schools

Sen. Kolb Sponsors Bill to Reimburse Costs Associated with Firearms in Schools

CHEYENNE – Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, has introduced a bill that would create a firearms on school property account and is being supported by other Sweetwater County lawmakers.

Senate File 86 is cosponsored by Sweetwater County legislators Representative JT Larson, R-Rock Springs; Rep. Tony Niemiec, R-Green River; and Sen. Stacy Jones, R-Rock Springs. Other cosponsors include Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas; Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton; and Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody. 

According to the bill, it would establish a fund account that would reimburse school districts for costs related to having firearms on school property. The bill would fund the account with $100,000 from the school foundation program and would be invested by the state treasurer, with the proceeds of that investment going back into the account.

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A district would need to submit an application to the Wyoming Department of Education one year prior to the expenditure of the funds and afterward, submit final receipts and certificates of completion for employees who completed training. If there isn’t enough in the account to cover reimbursements across all the schools who seek it, the department will “prorate reimbursement among all approved school district applications in proportion to the amount of costs approved for reimbursement.”

Brian Farmer, the executive director of the Wyoming School Boards Association, said Uinta County School District No. 1 in Evanston and Park County School District No. 6 in Cody were the pioneering districts in tackling the issue and creating policies related to allowing employees to carry guns in schools. Farmer said a total of five districts have adopted policies arming employees, with others considering similar proposals. The Wyoming Legislature initially allowed districts to determine if they would allow firearms in their schools in 2017, but Farmer says the topic remains a complex one as districts face many questions needing to be sorted out. One of those questions involves school insurance according to Farmer, as some insurance companies have opted to deny coverage to schools with a firearms policy. 

“There’s a conversation that’s been going on for a while,” Farmer said. 

Steve Core, the chairman of the Sweetwater County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees, said the district has provided for security in several ways that haven’t been reimbursed by the state. The district hasn’t discussed arming employees or establishing a policy allowing firearms on campus, with Core not being sure what other trustees think about the topic.

Core, who also works as the communications administrator for the City of Green River, said the district splits the costs of two school resource officers with the city, which comes to $180,000 between the two entities each year. The officers are city employees through the Green River Police Department and work within the schools they’re assigned, providing both security and support to students and school employees. Core said the resource officers have been a great benefit to the district and he would like to have one in each school, but the costs associated with the program are too high for that amount of coverage.

He said the district has also spent approximately $195,000 in security upgrades within the district, which include concrete barriers in front of school entrances that prohibit vehicles from driving into the buildings, a film which covers the glass at school entrances that makes them shatter resistant when shot, and security camera placement. Core said the money spent on those improvements came from major maintenance and capital construction funds, which are allocated to districts from the state, but were not reimbursed after the money was spent.

SweetwaterNOW will continue to monitor this bill and others during the Wyoming Legislature’s session.