SISD board votes to arm staff

While Thad Weikal addressed the board of trustees in public, most chose to voice their opinions on the subject of arming district employees through a survey.

By Christina Derr
christina@azlenews.net

By a vote 6-0, district takes first steps in School Guardian program

In a 6-0 vote just before midnight July 23, the Springtown ISD board of trustees adopted changes to two local district policies that allow for the body to authorize certain staff members to carry firearms.


The revisions to the district’s Emergency Operations Plan and Employee Standards of Conduct are the first steps needed for the district to implement the School Guardian program.

School Guardian program
The board first discussed two options in having more armed security on its campuses at its June meeting when they heard a presentation from Superintendent Mike Kelley on about the School Guardian and School Marshal programs.
Both are authorized by state law, and have certain restrictions required by the state, but the Guardian program gives the district more local control in regards to the number of staff member who can be armed, the training they must undergo, and which types of employees are eligible to be “Guardians.”

July 23 meeting
As part of the regular monthly meeting Superintendent Mike Kelley reviewed the two options – the Guardian program and the School Marshal program – with the board of trustees.
He also presented the results of two surveys – one sent to district stakeholders and the other to district employees.
After hearing from one public speaker who was ardently in favor programs that would allow teachers to be armed on campus, the board adjourned into executive session for several hours to discuss which option, if any, they planned to pursue.
During that closed session they also consulted with Springtown Chief of Police Tony Motley.

Adopted changes
The board adopted a change to the Employee Standards of Conduct that makes an exception in regard to firearm possession when the weapon is possessed by a specific employee authorized to do so by the board of trustees.
The second item, that changes the district’s Emergency Operations Plans, adds a section dedicated to the use of firearms in an emergency situation.
Kelley said the board will likely hold a meeting within the next week where they will discuss – in executive session – the further details such as training requirements and cooperation with local law enforcement.
He said the purpose of discussing it behind closed doors is to keep sensitive information out of the hands of those who may try to cause harm.

Implementation
Kelley said that he and the board would like to have the program implemented as soon as possible, but that there are still many facets that have to be decided upon.
To assist in that endeavor, Kelley said the district has and will continue to consult other districts that already adopted such a policy.
“The fact that we are the fifth district in Parker County to adopt a program of this sort (and one of an estimated 200 such districts in Texas) has allowed us opportunities to gather a great deal of guidance and advice from our peers,” Kelley said.
“Without exception, the many superintendents and law enforcement officials I have spoken to have all been incredibly helpful.”
Motley said his department will fully support whatever the board decides is best for the district.

Survey results
In addition to input from surrounding districts and law enforcement, Kelley said he and the board will use the results of the survey commissioned by the district, which will remain open for the time being.
“Based on the feedback, I think there is support for the idea of allowing highly trained, well-vetted employees to provide another level of security.
“The feedback we received was very helpful, and will help guide our trustees as they build related portions of the Emergency Operation Plan,” Kelley said.
The current results indicate overwhelming support from stakeholders and staff.
Of the 310 stakeholders and nearly 150 staff members who responded, more than 80 percent of both answered that they support the idea of highly trained, well-vetted staff members having access to firearms as a last line of defense in an active shooter situation.
Trustee Elizabeth Hall said that she was surprised at “how close the (results from) stakeholders were to that of the staff.”
Board Vice-President Rick Beall said he was pleased at the length and thoroughness of the survey, adding that surveys he’d seen from other districts typically asked basic questions, while the SISD survey asked in-depth questions about what mechanisms the participant supported, their perception how arming staff members would impact the learning environment, and how they felt arming teachers would affect safety and security, among other topics.