A North Texas school district approved a safety measure that will allow teachers to carry a concealed handgun in their classrooms.
On Monday, the board of trustees for the Weatherford Independent School District voted unanimously to arm select faculty and staff members, part of a larger “Defender Program.”
Participation in this program is voluntary, according to the school district. However, teachers and/or staffers interested in becoming “defenders” must undergo a thorough screening process that includes a psychological review, fingerprinting, background check, and administrative approval. The district says the program has an “extensive training component” and an “annual training requirement.” Those individuals selected to carry a concealed firearm on campus will remain anonymous.
School officials underscored that having a Defender Program does not mean that “any citizen with a License to Carry” has “the right to carry a concealed weapon on Weatherford ISD property.”
Defender Program components include classroom safes filled with a safety vest, pepper spray, and a trauma kit, according to Weatherford ISD. All school staff will receive trauma and intruder training. The program also provides one board certified behavioral analyst, two intervention counselors, and an intervention teacher to support students’ social and emotional needs in a crisis situation. A school safety coordinator will oversee the district’s safety plans and procedures.
Students will receive safety drill instruction and “See Something, Say Something” situational awareness training. The district plans to implement a character education program.
Weatherford ISD is roughly 30 miles west of Fort Worth and enrolls around 8,000 students. Administrators indicated they will “create a timeline” to roll out the concealed carry portion of the program. However, they added that “details of the Defender Program will not be disclosed to ensure the confidentiality of this safety measure.”
In late February, Superintendent Jeffrey Hanks responded to tragic high school shootings in Italy, Texas, and Parkland, Florida, in a “safety and security” message. He explained to families that the school district was contemplating folding this Defender Program into their existing campus security protocols.
School board President Jeffrey Geyer fleshed out some of the safety procedures the district already put into place through a 2015 bond. In a press release, he cited secured campus entrances, surveillance cameras, perimeter keyless entries, classroom intruder function door hardware, and extra parking lot lighting. Geyer also noted the district had four full-time dedicated School Resource Officer (SROs), local police assigned to a particular campus beat.
In March, Weatherford ISD held two town hall meetings with families. A video presentation said the Defender Program was used by Anna ISD, located on the northern rim of Collin County. They enroll more than 3,400 students.
Breitbart Texas has reported that schools also permit trained and approved personnel to carry a concealed firearm through other similar programs. “Guardians” were first introduced in 2007 at Harrold ISD. They appeal to small, rural schools that do not always have access to local law enforcement or first responders in an emergency. Larger districts often have SRO’s, police departments, surveillance, and state-of-the-art security systems, yet some of these schools incorporate a program that allows one armed “marshal” per 400 students.
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