While the hot-topic debate about how we can stop mass shootings at schools—and what the police could have done differently at Uvalde’s Robb Elementary School—one proposal that has gained traction is arming school employees.
A recent survey from the Texas American Federation of Teachers showed that 77 percent of K-12 teachers do not want to be armed in their schools. However, that leaves almost a quarter of teachers who do want to be armed, which Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi pointed out is “several times greater than the number of people in the general population who carry.”
That nearly a quarter of teachers do want to be armed warrants a discussion far different than @TexasAFT is implying by releasing this poll. This number is several times greater than the number of people in the general population who carry. https://t.co/IO7FRiEaHc
— Matt Rinaldi (@MattRinaldiTX) June 8, 2022
In 2013, Texas launched the School Marshal Program, which allows schools to appoint employees with a valid license to carry to take a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement-approved course to carry in schools.
The program was created after the Sandy Hook school shooting and designed to reduce response teams so more lives could be saved.
However, since 2013, only 84 of more than 1,200 Texas school districts have implemented the program.
A similar program used in other states was investigated by the Texas School Safety Center in 2020. They found in an audit that more school districts are turning toward the Guardian Plan, which was born from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting and a 2006 shooting at an Amish school.
The Guardian Plan, also known as the “School Safety Training,” allowed handpicked employees/educators to defend themselves and students in the case of an active threat.
The Guardian Plan only requires 16 hours of training, compared to the 80 hours required for the School Marshal Program. The Guardian Plan is also meant to “protect students from an active-shooter prior to law enforcement arrival,” while the other program allows for employees to act as security personnel.
In Harrold, Texas, a rural town on the Texas-Oklahoma border, the Harrold Independent School District only has about 100-125 students. With the nearest police department nearly 20 minutes away from the district’s lone school building, Harrold ISD has decided to arm and train more than half of the staff.
Cody Patton, the superintendent of the district, opted to have his faculty learn to shoot and carry a firearm in case of an intruder.
“Our situation is a lot different,” Cody Patton told NPR. “I know some of your bigger schools and a lot of the people are against it. But they’re not in our situation. We are a rural school in the middle of nowhere.”
Patton says that because of how small and rural their town is, they don’t have the resources and funding to pay for security for their school, so they decided to make themselves the defenders.
While there is much debate about whether schools should have armed teachers and whether it will be an effective solution, it ultimately depends on the resources available to the schools. For smaller school districts, like Harrold, that can’t afford to hire armed officers, arming the faculty could be the best option to keep them safe.