A rural school district joined nearly 200 other Texas school districts in arming their employees to protect students under a “Guardian” program.
On Monday, the Fayetteville Independent School District announced its new safety plan. Signs went up that read: “Please be aware that the staff at Fayetteville ISD may be armed and will use whatever force is necessary to protect our children.”
The school district, which claims less than 250 enrolled students, houses all grades K-12 on one campus. Fayetteville is situated almost halfway between Austin and Houston and is so tiny it does not have a local police force, only a county sheriff. It also does not employ school resource officers.
In a letter to Fayetteville families, Superintendent Jeff Harvey wrote that, in light of the many recent events, schools are “being forced to prepare for the unthinkable — the potential of a school shooting.” Harvey cited the Parkland, Florida, massacre but also clarified their Guardian program was already in the works. In fact, Fayetteville ISD school board records show trustees discussed this issue at their January 15, 2018, meeting. They changed local board policy allowing them to implement the program.
“We have gone through this process since it became a discussion at our school board about eight-and-a-half months ago,” said Harvey. He told KVUE: “We came back in January, put it up as an action item and the board agreed to unanimously begin our ‘Guardian’ program.”
In his letter, Harvey noted that these guardians, undisclosed staff members who volunteer for the program, will have “the right to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds.” He emphasized that these “hand-selected” school board approved guardians must hold a License to Carry (LTC) permit and undergo rigorous vetting. They must pass a series of requirements including police grade psychological testing, qualify annually with the specific handgun they carry, comply with and pass random drug testing, and be trained in tactics that deny intruder entry into a classroom or facility.
‘So, may you carry a conceled handgun or open carry?,” wrote Harvey, who made clear that other than approved guardians, Fayetteville ISD will remain a gun free zone. “No. No students, parents, nor most staff will be allowed to carry. Only those who have met all the requirements will be allowed to carry.”
The superintendent also told KVUE the goal of the program was not to create vigilante teachers. He called the guardians “a protection for each and every student in this school district.” Fayetteville ISD intends to utilize guardians as back up to their normal lockdown procedure. He said this will empower certain teachers and staff to fight back in a worst-case situation.
“We have numerous folks on staff that have military backgrounds.” Harvey said: “Everyone here believes in that sense of protectiveness of their kids. Each one of these kids is ours. We treat them like they’re our own and we want to make sure we’re prepared to do whatever it takes to protect them.”
Breitbart Texas reported that Harrold ISD was the state’s first school district to institute the Guardian program in 2007. It permits trained and approved school personnel with a Texas Concealed Handgun License (CHL) to carry a weapon on campus to protect students. The Guardian program is authorized under Texas Government Code 411.1901. This program appeals to small, rural school districts that do not have a police force or are not close to local law enforcement. A similar Marshal plan was the result of the 2013 Protection of Texas Children Act. It allows concealed handguns on otherwise “gun free” public school campuses; however, the Marshal program does not apply to schools with less than 400 students.
KVUE spoke to several parents, all of whom agreed with arming campus guardians. One mother said: “This is the only campus. We’re really small. So when we call 9-1-1…we’re not going to have the law enforcement that we need here in five minutes.”
Conversely, the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a chapter of the second largest teachers union in the nation, the American Federation of Teachers, opposes Guardian and Marshal programs.
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