The debate rages throughout the state, across the nation, and even here at Groom School. Guns on campus — are they a good idea or not?
The state, with its approval of Senate Bill 1857 last year, has made firearms in the hands of specially trained administrators and teachers legal. Some school districts, located in rural communities like Groom that do not have a local police force, are beginning to consider the pros and cons of this new option.
“I do not like the idea of having guns on campus,” superintendent Jay Lamb said, “unless it is on a trained security guard.”
Lamb pointed out that law enforcement officials and trained security guards have been given specialized courses and opportunities to know professionally how to handle a situation that might call for an armed response on a school campus.
Carson County Sheriff Loren Brand said while he would never say “no” to a teacher or administrator being allowed to use a concealed weapon in the school, he would just want them “to know of the situation, and know what to do.”
Brand pointed out that without proper training, it could be easy for a concealed weapon carrier to shoot the wrong person. Principal Matt Johnson agreed.
“I am not sure I want guns on the campus,” Johnson said. “If it (a firearm) was not on a security guard and was on a teacher, and they shot the wrong person, it would not be good for the teacher.”
While there has never been a shooting at Groom School, GISD has had to call a “lock down,” due to a neighboring resident waving a firearm in the air. Other Texas schools and administrators, though, have decided having armed personnel on campus could be helpful to protect students if a shooter situation were to occur, like the 2012 incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
For example, the Palmer Independent School District’s school board unanimously approved a plan to allow certain teachers to carry guns in school. Superintendent Kevin Noack, who also happens to be a former GISD superintendent, supported his board’s decision to have a handful of teachers with guns in their classrooms by fall of 2014.
When asked if he would support such action if he were still in Groom, Noack said, “If the school board allowed it.”
The reason the decision about arming teachers and administrators came up at Palmer Independent School District was due to a parent request.
“A parent called,” Noack said, “and said she thought it (arming some faculty members) was necessary.”
He then informed the board members, who decided to take up the topic at a meeting.
Noack said he “left the verdict to be decided by only the seven board members and the community” they represented.
He was going to support their decision “either way,” he said.
When asked how many teachers will have access to weapons on his district’s three campuses, he said no number had been set yet.
“It will be confidential once it is set,” he said. “The teachers that are chosen to carry weapons will get lock boxes or small safes that are in their desks.”
In preparing the staff members who will be allowed access to the weapons, Palmer ISD will require those chosen to have concealed carry permits and to receive special police training at a shooting range, Noack told NBC 5, a Dallas-Fort Worth television news station. He also told them there might be active shooter drills with police over the summer.
Teachers and administrators in Palmer will carry 9 mm “Glocks, all handguns, no assault rifles or rifles of any kind,” Noack told The Times of The Tiger. “All weapons will be completely concealed,” he said.
“No one will know which teachers have it,” he said. “The element of surprise will be a huge factor.”
While both Groom administrators did not like the idea of arming faculty members at this time, Johnson did not anticipate the district hiring a security guard at this time either due to budgetary constraints.
“I think it would be a good idea for one administrator carrying a gun,” freshman Caroline Britten said, “and switch it up some, so no one else knows who has the gun and where it is.”
If a shooter or any type of emergency were to occur at Groom School, Sheriff Brand said the response by his office would be immediate and would not come just from the Carson County Sheriff’s Department, which is based 25 miles away in Panhandle.
“All law enforcement in the area will be called to go immediately to the school,” Brand said.
In an unlikely worst case scenario, where all law enforcement would be on other calls at the farthest parts of the county, “it would take 15 minutes” for officials to arrive at Groom School, the sheriff said. But, a best-case scenario could allow an on-campus response in “around a minute and a half.”
In the event of a shooter emergency on the Groom campus, one board member expressed concerns about relying on just law enforcement for protection.
“With law enforcement so far away, it would be very hard for them to be very effective,” Groom ISD School Board Member Brady Miller said. “If there was a well-trained person,” who goes through the preparation required by the law to use a weapon on campus, “I would be all for it.”
For more information:
The Texas Legislature Online site has the complete wording of SB 1857: School Safety Certificates, which directs the Texas Department of Public Safety to establish a process by which qualified concealed handgun instructors may obtain additional certification in “school safety.” Successful completion of this advanced training would allow the instructor to teach advanced security techniques to employees of school districts or open-enrollment charter schools who hold concealed handgun licenses. (Effective 9/1/13)
Other coverage on Palmer ISD’s decision to arm some faculty members:
Palmer ISD plans for guns in the classroom
Palmer ISD moves forward with plans to arm teachers
Click the following links to see other articles done by The Times of The Tiger on this and other related topics:
Groom school goes on lockdown
Mason Miller received reporting assistance from the following The Times of The Tiger staff members: Nick Bohr, Jacob Clifton and Blake Weinheimer.
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