Texas teachers and parents continue to flock to firearms training courses and active shooter preparedness workshops in response to the recent wave of school threats and the February shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 14 defenseless students and three faculty members dead.
A group of teachers, principals, and school nurses in the Aransas Pass Independent School District spent Saturday in a half-day licensed to carry (LTC) course that local law enforcement officers held free of charge. Aransas Pass Police Captain Lynn Pearce told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that “a lot of teachers” expressed interest in attending this handgun licensing class. “So we decided to have a special class for Aransas Pass ISD employees.”
“Just with the current situation, the department has been meeting with the school about safety in general,” said Pearce, who conducted the class. He also teaches the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE), a certified Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center program at Texas State University.
Police already offer a free handgun licensing course to Aransas Pass residents, business owners and their employees, as well as to individuals who work for the city, which is located roughly 20 miles northeast of Corpus Christi. Last summer, Aransas Pass was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. Its small school district enrolls around 1,765 students.
Although Aransas Pass ISD trustees have made no decisions whether or not to arm teachers, Police Chief Eric Blanchard proposed they implement a modified Guardian program as well as other school safety improvements at the February 21 board meeting.
Previously, Breitbart Texas reported:
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.
Blanchard suggested that Aransas Pass ISD employees interested in becoming Guardians go through a staff nomination process, undergo a mental health evaluation, be licensed to carry a firearm, and show proficiency in using the weapon by enrolling in the department’s CRASE training.
Pearce said that regardless of whatever decision is made by the school district, officers are “just facilitating what we can and the reason we have this program is we do believe law-abiding citizens, if they can pass the test, should be allowed to defend themselves.”
Debra Fernandez, an in-school suspension teacher, told the Caller-Times she tried to take this course for some time. “You’ve got to be wise and smart about everything,” she said. “I always have a responsibility to my students; that’s a part of teaching.”
Over in the Rio Grande Valley, La Joya ISD parents trained one-on-one with officers as part of the school district’s Parent-Police Academy. This eight week course also covers other school-related issues such as gangs, bullying, and mental health. On Saturday, parents learned about the school district’s police department active shooter protocol and what happens when a campus is placed on lock down because of border security concerns or other dangerous situations.
La Joya ISD, located in the western portion of Hidalgo County, is a border school district. It enrolls 28,600 students across 44 campuses. The La Joya website boasts it is one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas.
“It’s important that they understand what we do as a school police department,” said Raul Gonzalez, La Joya ISD police chief. He told KGBT: “Obviously, right now the biggest concern that people have is school safety and what is it that we’re doing as a school.”
Gonzalez said the school district’s police department has more than 60 officers and they have been training for active shooter situations since 2001. “We will continue to train and do everything in our part to protect students and staff,” he said. “We pray this never happens to us, but if it does, we want to be prepared to respond.”
The police chief stated that firearms are used solely to protect the people in the La Joya ISD community. Officers will conduct another Parent-Police Academy session in April.
In North Texas, sixteen teachers and school staff members attended a free day-long pistol training course hosted by Ellis County Sergeant Tim Bulot on Saturday. He instructed them on the basics of handling and firing a weapon. For some, this was their first time shooting a firearm. Many of the attendees told NBC DFW they would support their districts in implementing school marshals.
Breitbart Texas reported these marshal programs allow trained teachers to keep a firearm in a lock box within immediate reach. A school board can appoint one armed marshal per 400 students.
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