As President Donald Trump sorts out a plan to arm teachers, the superintendent of one local school district is already weighing the option.
Mart Independent School District officials have been reviewing security measures after school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. Interim Superintendent Len Williams said he has recently met with police and officials at other school districts to discuss options.
Texas passed a law in 2013 that allows school districts to designate educators as armed school marshals. Some districts had already created their own policies allowing teachers to carry firearms in school before the 2013 law specified that districts have the authority.
“In Texas, we’re a little bit more conservative and a little bit more pro-arming and pro-safety concerns,” Williams said.
Shortly after the Parkland shooting, Trump said he wants to arm “well-trained, gun-adept” educators and give them bonuses for taking on the role, according to The New York Times.
“Right now everyone, everyone is running on emotions, and rightfully so,” said Williams, who is also mayor of Mart.
In Mart ISD, teachers would never be forced to carry a firearm, and anyone who would carry a gun would have to be highly trained, he said.
“There’s other things we can do besides arming people, but that really takes time,” he said.
Williams said emotions are running high, just as they were five years ago, when the state Legislature introduced school marshal legislation. The law came in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.
The law allows districts to appoint an armed school marshal for every 400 students and outlines requirements for training.
The Texas Association of School Boards found that 172 of the state’s 1,023 independent school districts allow an employee or board member to carry a firearm on campus, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
About 24 percent of districts use school resource officers, and another 15 percent rely on their own police department, the Caller-Times reported.
With a granddaughter in kindergarten, Williams said he is concerned for her safety and the safety of others.
“I’m looking at every stone and looking at what our budget is, what would be the best,” he said. “Anytime you start arming and putting firearms around children, it raises a concern, but many of the parents I’ve talked to welcome it.”
Mart ISD is a rural district with about 500 students, and more then 70 percent are economically disadvantaged. The town has about 2,000 residents, and the Mart Police Department has four officers, Williams said.
The first few minutes of an emergency situation are critical, he said.
“What if that one on-duty (officer) has a stray dog he has to take to Waco, and we have to call on DPS (the Texas Department of Public Safety) or other agencies … to help us with an active shooter?” he said.
It is unclear when Williams may present a plan to his school board, but district officials are also in the middle of building a new high school, expected to be complete by the 2019-20 school year. The facility will have new security measures, and new measures will be added to the district’s elementary campus, Williams said.
Elsewhere in McLennan County, Midway ISD Superintendent George Kazanas is considering adding more school resource officers to the district’s payroll.
And Robinson ISD officials recently implemented emergency planning software that gives first responders immediate access to information about shool facilities during dangerous situations.
McGregor ISD Superintendent James Lenamon declined to discuss possible new security measures until he can review the situation with the district’s school board.
“We are, like all schools, are evaluating and re-evaluating our plans and responses to all manner of situations,” Lenamon wrote in an email to the Tribune-Herald. “Anything I gave you at this time would strictly be my personal opinion. However, my personal opinion could easily be interpreted as district policy. Until I can discuss President Trump’s latest proposal with my board, I feel I need to keep my thoughts as my own.”
At the largest district in the county, Waco ISD police officers go through regular training on how to respond to active shooters and how to start providing emergency medical care afterward, spokesman Kyle DeBeer said. Students also have regular emergency drills, he said.
“We do drills on a wide range of potential emergencies, not just lock downs,” DeBeer said. “And every threat is taken seriously, and we work closely with law enforcement to assess threats.”