By James Mayse The Messenger-Inquirer

An associate deputy secretary with the U.S. Department of Education told an panel of state legislators Thursday there was "no way in hell" arming teachers was a viable approach to stopping school shootings.

William Modzeleski, who is with the Education Department's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, told members of the House and Senate education committees that people who advocate for arming teachers to fight school shooters "haven't been in schools."

The committees met together to discuss school safety with Modzeleski and Jon Akers, director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety. The committees didn't debate any bills to arm teachers, although a bill has been filed in the House of Representatives to allow teachers to carry handguns.

Modzeleski's comment came on the same day Gov. Matt Bevin voiced support for having some armed personnel in schools.

The Associated Press reported Bevin told a radio station: "I am a supporter of considering having people who are armed inside of the school. Not anybody,... but people who have been highly and specifically trained, people who have gone through a battery of psychological and psychiatric tests to ensure they are ready and able to handle this type of situation the best they possibly can."

How lawmakers can or should respond to school shootings was the focus of Thursday's hearing. "We need to be deliberate and look at best practices to keep our children safe" said Rep. John Carney, a Campbellsville Republican and head of the House education committee. Carney said legislators want to consider ideas that are "research-based, evidence-based," but said, "I don't think anything replaces the relationships that have to be built between staff and students."

School-related crime has actually declined 50 percent since 1994, Modzeleski said.

"People are saying, 'schools aren't safe, we can't stop (school violence),' " he said. "We still have evidence to the contrary, that schools are safe places."

What schools need, Modzeleski said, is a "comprehensive approach" that includes having mental health professions who are capable to assessing students for mental problems and potential threats and programs to help those students once they are identified. Parent involvement is also needed, and security measures, he said.

Efforts to build trust among students toward teachers, faculty and parents is critical, Modzeleski said, because school shooters are found later to have almost always shared their plans with others.

Students didn't report potential threats because they either didn't believe they were going to occur, didn't trust adults or had previously reported their concerns and felt nothing was done, Modzeleski said.

"There isn't any profile" of who is a shooter, he said. But Modzeleski said, "all of these individuals talked to someone about what they were going to do."

"Without (communication), we can't function," Modzeleski said. When asked if metal detectors would prevent guns from entering schools, Modzeleski said a metal detector wouldn't make a difference.

A person about to commit a school shooting "doesn't care if there was a metal detector or not," he said. Cameras, likewise, aren't a deterrent.

While seven states have recently passed bills allowing armed people in schools, Modzeleski said he disagreed with arming teachers.

"Their expertise is not on the firing range," he said. Even a person with firearms training on a firing range can't be expected to shoot properly in a live situation, Modzeleski said.

"All the rules are off," in an active shooter incident, he said.

Akers said schools need parents to be aware of what their children are talking about on social media and said parents should require their children hand over their devices to parents at night.

"If parents read something or see something, they need to say something," Akers said, noting that schools only have students "15 percent of the time" while parents have them the other 85 percent.

Akers said retired law enforcement officers or military personnel with firearms training could be hired to provide school security.

"You would be surprised how many retired law enforcement officers would step up to the plate." Akers said. In terms of mental health, "we are not reaching out enough" to kids who need help. Modzeleski said having law enforcement in schools as resource officers comforts parents but said "there's not a scintilla of evidence that says school security officers are necessary."

Rep. Reginald Meeks, a Louisville Democrat, said legislators "need to strike now" while the issue is still the center of attention. Modzeleski said previous shootings have shown nothing will happen if action isn't taken shortly after an incident occurs.

"If you don't strike now while the iron is hot, it may never get done," Modzeleski said.