One Texas superintendent of schools says that, lately, he has been inundated with phone calls from people “probably in every state” asking about the campus safety program he pioneered over a decade ago — the Guardian plan.
David Thweatt, superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District, created “guardians” in 2007. It permits trained and approved school personnel licensed to carry a concealed handgun onto a campus to protect others in the event of an active shooter situation.
Thweatt told KAUZ he has spoken to people “probably in every state” and even legislators, all coming to him for advice. He said: “They ask how to do it.”
Thweatt said the idea came to him after the tragic 2006 Amish schoolhouse shooting in Pennsylvania where five perished and the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 dead. Thweatt voiced concern that Harrold ISD could fall prey to a similar fate.
The small, rural school district houses all of its 115 students and 24 staff members, including teachers, on one K-12 campus that is roughly 35 miles northwest of Wichita Falls and almost 30 minutes from the nearest first responder location.
Thweatt handpicks potential guardians from a pool of people already licensed to carry a concealed handgun who he has known and worked with closely for several years. He also looks for individuals poised to operate with a clear head when protecting others under such a life-threatening circumstance.
The chosen individuals must be approved by the school board and receive at least 15 hours of training that includes videos of hostage scenarios and shooting drills, according to the Texas Tribune.
Texas Government Code 411.1901 authorizes the Guardian plan. It appeals to tiny, remote school districts that do not have police departments or access to nearby law enforcement. Harrold ISD posts its concealed handgun police alongside school announcements on the district website.
Thweatt takes this matter very seriously. He recognizes the cultural pushback from those who fear arming teachers. He believes their fear is misplaced. He says guardians can save lives and prevent tragedies like the recent Parkland, Florida, massacre that killed 17.
So do other schools.
Breitbart Texas reported Fayetteville ISD recently instituted a Guardian plan. This rural school district, located between Austin and Houston, enrolls less than 250 students. The town is so small that it does not have a local police force. Superintendent Jeff Harvey called guardians “a protection for each and every student in this school district” in a worst-case scenario. The school district plans to use guardians as back up to their regular lockdown procedure. To naysayers, Harvey commented they were not creating vigilante teachers.
In February, Police Chief Eric Blanchard recommended Aransas Pass ISD consider a modified Guardian plan when a group of teachers and administrators took a half-day licensed to carry class. The Corpus Christi area school system has not yet made any decisions.
In 2016, Breitbart Texas reported on Medina ISD, which has around 300 students from pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 on one campus nearly 70 miles away from Austin. They adopted a Guardian plan.
Thweatt says guardians can work for larger school districts, too. “It also can be adapted to fit any particular need that you have if you pick the right people,” he said. “If you have the right policies in place in regards to this, which we do, and if you have the right training.”
Larger school districts often have on-campus police departments, security, and surveillance systems. Still, some embrace school marshals, the result of the 2013 Protection of Texas Children Act authored by state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). It allows trained teachers to keep a firearm in a lockbox within reach, if necessary. This program allots one armed marshal per 400 students.
The identities of guardians and marshals remain confidential to protect these individuals from being deliberately targeted in an attack. Today, more than 170 Texas public school districts participate in these programs.
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