In Rural America, Bears Actually ARE a Valid Reason for Teachers to be Armed

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Trina Jo Bradley and her daughter, Kadence

By Trina Jo Bradley

According to NBC News, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, told lawmakers that guns might have a place in schools due to the threat from grizzly bears.

The article reads, “Pressed on whether she could say ‘definitively’ if guns shouldn’t be in schools, she referred to an earlier remark by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming, that had erected a fence to protect children from wildlife.”

DeVos’ answer was simple: “I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

While people in Washington, DC, New York, and cities all over America think what she said is absurd, folks in rural Montana, Wyoming and other western states are glad someone finally noticed our plight.

I served on the Dupuyer Elementary School Board when we decided to erect a six-foot, chain link fence around the school because there were so many bears roaming the area. This fall, a grizzly was seen within three blocks of Valier Elementary at 3 p.m. – just 30 minutes before school was dismissed. Many Hutterite colonies in the area have bears in their gardens and schoolyards every year. A school in Bozeman – not a rural town but a “big city” – had a black bear INSIDE their school.

The idea of a grizzly being a threat to school children is not absurd to anyone that lives in grizzly country; it’s a real and constant worry for parents, teachers and administration. As the parent of a third grade student, I for one would be totally supportive of our teachers and staff being armed in case of a bear attack. Yes, I fully believe in the use of bear spray as a non-lethal deterrent. HOWEVER, bear spray doesn’t always stop a bear. A bullet will.

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Paw of bear captured for relocation on the Eastern Rocky Mountain Front

Some schools have armed police officers to protect staff and students from attacks from other people. Why wouldn’t we want our children to have the same protection from a wild animal?

Some people say there is too much of a risk having teachers armed because they may miss their target. I say in rural Montana and Wyoming, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person that isn’t good with a gun. I also believe that any person – teacher, administrator, janitor – that is allowed to carry a firearm at school should be trained and certified to use one.

The truth of the matter is this: the grizzly bear population in Montana and Wyoming is fully recovered, and their numbers are increasing so rapidly that many grizzlies are venturing out onto the prairie in search for new and easier food sources. This means our little towns are in their path, and with so much activity in a town, a curious and hungry grizzly isn’t going to avoid the place. We need to be proactive in our efforts to keep our children and families safe. If that means arming our school teachers, then so be it.

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Kadence Bradley on a ranch about 10 miles out of Valier, MT on the Eastern Rocky Mountain Front.  She is frightened to play in her own yard, and rightfully so, as grizzly bears frequent it most evening in the spring, summer and fall.  Kadence has grown up almost a prisoner in her own home due to the increase in the grizzly population. 
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3 thoughts on “In Rural America, Bears Actually ARE a Valid Reason for Teachers to be Armed

  1. I would be okay with there being a gun at school with a security guard to protect against gunmen or grizzlies. I’m less happy with the idea of teachers having guns at school. If too many people have guns it increases the chances that a bullet will miss and hit a student. And if a gunman is shooting up a school and a lot of people try to shoot back at him it will be very easy for people who hear the shooting and come to help to mistake the good shooter for the bad shooter and start shooting at each other rather than the gunman.

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    1. In rural Montana the schools of the biggest concern are one room schools with 5- 15 kids and one teacher. The school could be a couple miles from any other human settlement or it could be in a small town such as Dupuyer still one teacher multiple kids tall fence but who will come to your rescue? There is only a county sheriff 40 miles away or the bear specialist over an hour away if he can be reached as cell phones don’t work well in remote areas.
      I can’t speak to big city schools and their issues, it would be kind if they would not try to limit our options in rural areas. It may be best for locals to be able determine the need in their school.

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  2. I agree, although everyone responsible for a firearm should receive proper firearm training and remain certified. I live in Interior Alaska in a very remote area ( nearest town is 90 miles away) I’ve seen two bears in our area and as a Park Ranger I get many reports of bear sightings. It is a very real and tangible threat in rural areas. Even if the animal isn’t destroyed, the noise from a firearm is a very good deterrent and you don’t have to be up close and personal like you do if using bear spray.

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