SUWANEE -- If it's up to Republican State Rep. Paul Battles, the duties of principals around Georgia could extend beyond that of school authority figures.
The lawmaker has proposed a bill that would let districts decide whether to give school administrators yet another responsibility: acting as armed guardians of teachers and children. Gov. Nathan Deal recently predicted that the bill will pass the state legislature.
Battles' proposal is the latest in a series of gun-related measures the General Assembly may consider in light of the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Some Gwinnett County education officials are undecided on the issue, while others are outright opposed.
Phillip Beard, for one, is "totally against it."
"The principal's duties are to instruct, educate and oversee our schools," said Beard, chairman of Buford City Schools Board of Education. "I don't want to put that kind of pressure on an administrator. They've got enough going on without putting a gun on them and asking them to walk the wide earth with a weapon."
The chairman for Gwinnett County Public Schools has similar feelings on the matter. While Louise Radloff has not come to a decision on the issue, she said the idea makes her "very uncomfortable."
"I was in an elementary school just this morning, and I just could not imagine a principal walking the halls with a loaded weapon," Radloff said.
Radloff said she's spoken with Gwinnett County residents who think it would be a positive to arm administrators, but she's also talked with law enforcement officials "who indicated that to wear a weapon as a principal in a school with thousands of kids is a major issue in itself."
Carole Boyce, a member of the GCPS school board, said law enforcement officials who already patrol local schools are doing a fine job.
"I feel comfortable with a fully-trained individual like our school SROs (school resource officers), and I know that they do an excellent job," Boyce said.
The district currently has 25 officers who patrol schools throughout the day, including school resource officers, lieutenants and a chief.
School Board Member Mary Kay Murphy said she wished that there could be one in every school all the time. "But there's a great expense associated with that," Murphy said.
Herb Garrett, executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, said he too is in favor of letting law enforcement officials continue to do their jobs, rather than shifting responsibilities to the administrator.
"Speaking as an individual, I would say ... a loaded gun in a school in possession of a person with minimal training? What could possibly go wrong?"
Added Garrett: I'm not sure it's a good idea, on a personal basis." Garrett has spent more than 45 years in the education field in various capacities.
Matt Cardoza, who is the spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education, said the agency is "in favor of well-trained SROs in the classroom, but it's got to be a partnership with funding for such."
According to the GCPS website, the 25 certified police officers are "responsible for providing a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff."
In Thursday's work session for the Gwinnett County Board of Education, Steve Flynt -- associate superintendent for school leadership and operational support -- gave board members an update on current security measures.
"With any emergency preparedness, we communicate with other agencies like county and city police departments," Flynt said.
He said a Safety Task Force currently is reviewing school safety plans on a case by case basis. "SROs are looking at current plans and signing off on them," Flynt said.
Despite current security measures, Boyce said there's always the possibility of danger.
"Unfortunately, our society is such that things can happen no matter what security you have in place ... no matter what you do, there's always some nut out there who will try to do whatever, but our schools are safe places for kids."
"There's no way to do anything to predict when these crackpots are going to strike," Beard said. "There's just no way to know it. But our school resource officers are good. They are fully capable of managing any situation that arises."