Authorities in the US have begun to take pre-emptive measures against shooting in schools. A small region in Texas has decided to allow teachers to carry guns. But many are uneasy, wondering whether it would not lead to its own set of problems.
The Harrold school district has decided to permit its employees to carry concealed weapons, of course only if they fulfill some norms. The district is situated on the eastern end of Wilbarger County, near the Oklahoma border.
AdvertisementStar-Telegram newspaper reports that the move is unheard of in elementary or secondary schools.
Superintendent David Thweatt defended the decision saying a main concern was that the small community was a 30-minute drive from the sheriff's office, leaving students and teachers without protection.
The district's lone campus sits 500 feet from heavily trafficked U.S. 287, which could make it a target, Thweatt argued.
Other security measures are in place, including one-way access to enter the school, state-of-the-art surveillance cameras and electric locks on doors. But after the Virginia Tech massacre and the Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania, Thweatt felt he had to take further action, he said.
"When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that's when all of these shootings started," Thweatt said. "Why would you put it out there that a group of people can't defend themselves? That's like saying 'sic 'em' to a dog."
Texas law outlaws firearms on school campuses "unless pursuant to the written regulations or written authorization of the institution."
Thweatt did not say how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members will be armed this fall because he doesn't want students or potential attackers to know.
Barbara Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards, said her organization is not aware of another district doing something similar. Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school security expert who advises districts nationwide, including in Texas, said Harrold is the first district he knows of to take such a step.
Trump said he would have advised against allowing teachers to arm themselves, if only because of liability concerns. In the long run, it could have been cheaper and safer to hire security or off-duty police, he said. Texas school districts also have the option of forming their own police force, he noted.
"What are the rules for use of force?" Trump said. "Or how about weapons-retention training? Because they could go in to break up a fight in the cafeteria and lose their gun."
Thweatt maintained the district did not rush into the decision. Officials researched the policy and weighed other options for about a year before trustees voted on the policy in October.
"The naysayers think [a shooting] won't happen here," he said. "If something were to happen here, I'd much rather be calling a parent to tell them that their child is OK because we were able to protect them."