The Topeka Capital-Journal
June 19, 2013
Allowing teachers and other employees to carry guns under a new state law would cost most school districts their insurance.
EMC Insurance Companies, the state’s main insurer of schools, won’t insure districts with armed employees under the new law, which takes effect July 1. Districts already insured by EMC wouldn’t have their policies renewed.
“We understand that school districts have every right to decide which way they want to go,” Bernie Zalaznik, EMC’s resident vice president in Wichita, said Monday. “But we have to make the decision based on what we perceive to be our best financial interest.”
EMC, which Zalaznik estimated insures about 90 percent of Kansas’ 286 school districts, has issued a letter to its agents around the state, explaining that concealed carry would pose too great a risk.
“We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” said the May 15 letter, which can be viewed in full on The Topeka Capital-Journal’s website.
Zalaznik and the Kansas Association of School Boards said some school districts have been showing interest in letting employees carry firearms. Currently, only law enforcement officers can carry guns on school property.
Zalaznik said he had heard directly from or indirectly of about five or six districts seeking information on allowing guns in schools. David Shriver, director of the school board association’s insurance program, said about a dozen districts around the state, mostly small ones, had called and expressed interest.
The school board association is advising all districts against taking advantage of the new law.
Shriver said two other insurers of districts, Wright Specialty Insurance and Continental Western Group, also have decided either not to cover liabilities related to concealed firearms or not to insure such districts at all.
When contacted, Continental Western declined to comment. The Capital-Journal is seeking confirmation from Wright Speciality.
The new law lets school boards designate employees who can bring guns to school. The employees must have valid concealed-carry permits.
No districts in Shawnee County have plans to let employees carry guns.
“We haven’t discussed it,” Tim Hallacy, Silver Lake Unified School District 372 superintendent, said Monday. “I don’t see that as being a discussion point, and personally I’m not very interested.”
Julie Ford, superintendent of Topeka USD 501, said the district would continue to entrust its security to its police department.
“We have 20 police officers on any day that are in Topeka schools,” Ford said.
Shawnee Heights USD 450, Auburn-Washburn USD 437 and Seaman USD 345 also said allowing concealed carry wasn’t on their agendas.
“Our administration and school police department feel very strongly about this,” Seaman communications director Jeff Zehnder said.
Seaman has four police officers patrolling its buildings, Auburn-Washburn has one, Shawnee Heights has two, and Silver Lake shares an officer with Rossville USD 321.
EMC insures two districts in Shawnee County: Shawnee Heights and Silver Lake.
Unless school boards take action to allow staff members to have guns, firearms will continue to be banned on their properties except when carried by police officers.
Still, at least one school district, Wichita USD 259, may pass a policy to make clear that concealed carry isn’t allowed. The potential policy “prohibits everyone from possessing firearms in district buildings, provides for disciplining employees for possession of any firearm and requires signage at all entrances to district buildings as approved by the Kansas attorney general,” a USD 259 school board agenda says.
The board was scheduled to discuss the matter Monday, but hasn’t voted yet.