NIXA, Mo. -- In the wake of the deadly Connecticut school shooting, many teachers are learning how to use weapons. Hundreds of educators in Ohio, Texas and Utah took advantage of free conceal-and-carry classes. The trend continues around the Ozarks in Nixa, Springfield, and Marshfield; teachers signed up for concealed weapons courses, even though they can't carry them in class.
Jody Hays is one of Nixa's three school resource officers. As he patrols the hallways during lunch, students can easily see his weapons.
"I think it's a good piece of mind for a lot of the students and faculty and family members. I believe it's a good thing to have since it's needed," said Hays.
The 23-year veteran of the force thinks something else is needed: gun safety. In his off time, Hays teaches a conceal/carry weapons course.
"I've had a good interest from several staff members and district employees," he said. "I've had real good response from everybody that's taking it and they seem to appreciate it. Even a lot of them are just glad for the information."
Teachers packing heat: it's a concept many feel would add to school safety.
"I feel like it would make the school more safe if we had more teachers who are armed," said Nixa High School senior Devon Colegrove. "I feel like I would be more protected with teachers who know how to handle a gun and know what's up."
That reasoning has prompted more conceal carry instructors and shooting ranges to offer discounted or free classes and memberships to teachers.
"We've noticed an increase in teachers probably because of the offer we made to local area teachers for a free or reduced rate," said Marshfield Shooting Club President Dennis Burgner. "We're doing that out of our pocket so we can hopefully get some of the teachers to get conceal carry, get some board approval, and maybe protect our kids in the school."
Even if teachers are able to carry a concealed weapon, you will not see guns in a classroom. Federal law prohibits it, except for police officers in the course of their job.
"Our school board has a policy that does not allow weapons to be brought on school campuses in the building. Even if you do have a registered concealed-and-carry weapon, it's still not allowed by school board policy," said Nixa School District Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith. "I don't see in the near future that policy being changed."
However, in Nixa, you can have a gun in the school parking lot, as long as it is locked up and people do not see it.
"Once it's shown, then we take matters in a little bit of a different direction," said Kleinsmith.
Other school boards across the state are set to consider changes to allow weapons on school grounds, with the proper paperwork. Marshfield is one district mulling over a change in conceal-and-carry regulations with regards to board members or parking lots.
"Having more guns around, I think it will be safer especially if teachers have them and they know how to use them," Colegrove said.
The Springfield School District sits on the other side of the issue. The school system has a strict "no weapons" policy on school-owned grounds.
Besides weapons, many school districts will ramp up security policies in the coming months to help increase student safety. The Logan-Rogersville district recently installed an electronic access system to the high school and middle school entrances that will restrict visitors. A plan for the elementary schools is already in motion.
Read more about the Logan-Rogersville changes here.
In Nixa, the district has an established school district safety team to research techniques that could make school safer.
"The district's long-term strategic plan is to look at all areas of safety and security, examine them, and the implement what will be best for our students. We always look for facts and best-practices on what to implement," said Nixa spokesman Zac Rantz. "The Connecticut shooting has been and will continue to be an area of focus, just like we are planning for the coming tornado season."
Nixa administrators met with one student group on Wednesday to discuss safety concerns.
"It might be better lighting; it might be secured entrances; it might be a number of different ideas; but we'll take a comprehensive look at each and every idea that we research," said Kleinsmith. "We won't take a quick knee-jerk reaction to anything. It will be well thought out and focused on student safety."