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Home > Topics > Safety
December 20, 2012

Texas town allows teacher to carry concealed weapons

School officials reason that because the school cannot afford security guards, gun-toting teachers is a good alternative

By Angela K. Brown
Associated Press

HARROLD, Texas — In this tiny Texas town, children and their parents don't give much thought to safety at the community's lone school mostly because some of the teachers are carrying concealed weapons.

In remote Harrold, the nearest sheriff's office is 30 minutes away, and people tend to know and trust one another. So the school board voted to let teachers bring guns to school.

"We don't have money for a security guard, but this is a better solution," Superintendent David Thweatt said. "A shooter could take out a guard or officer with a visible, holstered weapon, but our teachers have master's degrees, are older and have had extensive training. And their guns are hidden. We can protect our children."

In the awful aftermath of last week's Connecticut elementary school shooting, lawmakers in a growing number of states _ including Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, South Dakota and Oregon have said they will consider laws allowing teachers and school administrators to carry firearms at school.

Texas law bans guns in schools unless the school has given written authorization. Arizona and six other states have similar laws with exceptions for people who have licenses to carry concealed weapons.

Harrold's school board voted unanimously in 2007 to allow employees to carry weapons. After obtaining a state concealed-weapons permit, each employee who wants to carry a weapon must be approved by the board based on his or her personality and reaction to a crisis, Thweatt said.

Employees also must undergo training in crisis intervention and hostage situations. And they must use bullets that minimize the risk of ricochet, similar to those carried by air marshals on planes.

CaRae Reinisch, who lives in the nearby community of Elliott, said she took her children out of a larger school and enrolled them in Harrold two years ago, partly because she felt they would be safer in a building with armed teachers.

"I think it's a great idea for trained teachers to carry weapons," Reinish said. "But I hate that it has come to this."

The superintendent won't disclose how many of the school's 50 employees carry weapons, saying that revealing that number might jeopardize school security.

The school, about 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth near the Oklahoma border, has 103 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Most of them rarely think about who is carrying a gun.

"This is the first time in a long time that I've thought about it," said Matt Templeton, the principal's 17-year-old son. "And that's because of what happened" in Connecticut.

Thweatt said other Texas schools allow teachers to carry weapons, but he would not reveal their locations, saying they are afraid of negative publicity.

The Texas Education Agency said it had not heard of any other schools with such a policy. And the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence did not know of any other districts nationwide that allow school employees to carry concealed handguns.

But that may change soon.

Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McCullough said he is working on a bill that would allow teachers and administrators to receive firearms training through the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, which would authorize them to carry weapons at school and at school events. Other states are proposing or considering similar measures.

However, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder this week vetoed legislation that would have allowed concealed weapons in schools, churches and day care centers, saying he seeks a more "thoughtful review" that includes school emergency policies and mental health-related issues.

In Texas, guns have an honored place in the state's culture, and politicians often describe owning a gun as essential to being Texan. At the state Capitol, concealed handgun license holders are allowed to skip the metal detectors that scan visitors.

Gov. Rick Perry has indicated he would prefer to give gun owners the widest possible latitude. Just days after the Connecticut attack, Perry said permit holders should be able to carry concealed weapons in any public place.

Last year, many Texas lawmakers supported a plan to give college students and professors with concealed handgun licenses the right to carry guns on campus, but the measure failed.

Opponents insist that having more people armed at a school, especially teachers or administrators who aren't trained to deal with crime on a daily basis, could lead to more injuries and deaths. They point to an August shooting outside the Empire State Building, where police killed a laid-off clothing designer after he fatally shot his former colleague. Nine bystanders were wounded by police gunfire, ricochets and fragments.

"You are going to put teachers, people teaching 6-year-olds in a school, and expect them to respond to an active-shooter situation?" said Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who called the idea of arming teachers "madness."

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said she would not have felt better if teachers at her children's Seattle school had been armed during a May shooting at a nearby cafe. A gunman killed four people at the cafe and another woman during a carjacking before killing himself. The school went on lockdown as a precaution.

"It would be highly concerning to me to know that guns were around my kids each and every day. ... Increasing our arms is not the answer," said Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and CEO of MomsRising.org.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said focusing on arming teachers distracts from the "real things" that could help prevent a school shooting "and at worse it furthers a dangerous conversation that only talks about guns as protection without a discussion about the serious risks they present."

As the debate continues, Harrold's school plans to leave its policy unchanged.

Associated PressCopyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

"Nothing is 100 percent at all. ... But hope makes for a terrible plan, hoping that (a tragedy) won't happen," Thweatt said. "My question is: What have you done about it? How have you planned?"

Comments
The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of EMS1.com or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Adam Moore Adam Moore Thursday, December 20, 2012 5:54:47 PM For it- give our educators a way to stop a massacre, and not be sitting ducks and save our children!
Britney Lee Donivan Britney Lee Donivan Thursday, December 20, 2012 6:02:36 PM This makes me want to raise children in this small Texas town, hoping bad things wont happen is not the way to "prepare" for a tragedy. I feel that the teachers and staff that carry concealed in schools is a great idea, as educators these people love children and just like Miss Soto they would do anything to protect their students...and if you are not for teachers being prepared to defend your child then please stop the critisim and think of a better solution.
Cary Neeley Cary Neeley Thursday, December 20, 2012 6:32:58 PM I know where Harold is and there is a least a 20 minute response time for any law enforcement just as many other small towns who do not have law enforcement stationed in there town. I believe that a well trained armed staff is the best form of protection available. The fact that it is well known that the staff is armed is going to make some crazy think twice about attacking this school because all of the news coverage they will get is in the obituaries.
Hank Messer Hank Messer Thursday, December 20, 2012 7:04:50 PM Good read, except the last half sucks up to the anti-gun parade a little too much.
Daryl Diabo Daryl Diabo Friday, December 21, 2012 5:32:47 AM they fail to cite all the times that fire arms in the hands of a trained civillan has saved lives.
Reka Stephens Reka Stephens Friday, December 21, 2012 6:28:48 AM we should be allowed to carry any gun. what makes everyone think that if our guns are taken away we would be safer. I would use my gun to protect anyone's child. every parent would do that when it comes to a child. I know there's a reason this happened. only God knows why and we never question him. faith is all we have. so I'll keep my gun and all should have the right to protect our kids. I trust the teacher so I hope they learn to shoot to protect our kids and hope they understand what a teacher stands for.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Saturday, December 22, 2012 10:56:25 AM This sends the wrong message to young people everywhere. Promoting the use of guns by the people they are supposed to look up to just creates a society which advocates violence. You can not always predict the psychcos but you should not be a role model for all the kids who now see carrying guns as a way of life. They should be carrying books, basketballs and musical instruments. Telling kids it is okay to carry guns and use violence instead of finding other solutions is just wrong.
Buddy Alton Buddy Alton Sunday, December 23, 2012 9:54:15 AM I believe the 2nd amendment should not be restricted in any way. Having said that I believe the teachers who want to carry in a crowded environment, like schools, should be responsible enough to go & take a shoot/don't shoot course taught by law enforcement.
Steve Jacobi Steve Jacobi Monday, December 24, 2012 9:13:19 AM If a person is mentally unstable, they are not going to stop and think "Oh gee, they might have a gun there". They are mentally UNSTABLE! There is very little way to prepare for these attacks. Even in Newton, the guy was a member of an employee's family who might even have been seen at the school before. The shooters at Columbine were students. Having teachers carrying guns is just stupid since they may have to kill one of their own. But, recognizing the shooter as one of their own may also get them killed first. They should be getting the kids to safety and securing the doors before playing like some shoot 'em up cowboy. Very few people are going to receive enough training to go on a aggressive SWAT tactic attack to take out a shooter. The shooter will more than likely be wearing body armor which means no way would the regular joe be able to take him out. SWAT teams train everyday and all day for these situations. I want a teacher who is focused on teaching rather than more concerned about how to kill a person being a role model for my kids.
Daniel Smith Daniel Smith Monday, December 24, 2012 3:41:36 PM Well here in Washington State in most high schools there is a Police officer asigned to almost every school. I still agree with the armed security gaurd idiea.

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