By Terry Britt
VAN—Van ISD’s decision Monday night to allow some campus employees to carry a concealed handgun has drawn a storm of comments this week on the Facebook pages for the Van Zandt News, Van Banner, Canton Herald and Wills Point Chronicle.
In total, those Facebook pages have seen more than 700 “likes” on that news announcement since Monday night and about 300 posted comments.
Van ISD became the first school district in Van Zandt County to approve the carrying of concealed handguns by certain employees. The decision comes in the wake of in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.
Twenty children and six adults lost their lives that day, along with the shooter, Adam Lanza, who committed suicide as police arrived at the school.
The Van ISD measure calls for employees licensed to carry a concealed handgun, and authorized by the school to do so on school property, to be required to complete additional training in “crisis intervention, management of hostage situations and other training as the Board or designee may determine necessary or appropriate.”
It also limits the ammunition in a concealed handgun on campus to “frangible” types to reduce the chance of a bullet ricochet.
On each of the newspaper pages, comments were mostly in favor of the school district’s decision.
“It’s so refreshing to see a school being proactive instead of sitting back and hoping they’re not next,” wrote one person on the Van Zandt News Facebook page.
“They (school personnel) could be the first responders in the event of a problem. Van has the right idea. It could very well save a few lives,” another person wrote.
However, some questioned the wisdom of allowing teachers and staff members to carry a handgun. One Facebook respondent labeled it “terrifying.”
“I believe the kids need all the protection we can give them, but, I think it should be in the form of armed resource officers at each school. The thought of random teachers or specific employees is a little unnerving to me as a parent,” another reader stated.
A question posted on the Canton Herald Facebook page asking if readers thought other school districts should adopt a similar policy drew more than 60 responses as of Thursday morning.
“I think it’s a great idea…It would for sure make crazy people think twice about going in and opening fire if they knew that there were teachers armed and trained how to use a gun,” one reader stated.
Some readers felt it was a bad idea for schools, or that schools should hire an on-campus police officer instead.
“Teachers jobs are to teach. Police are trained to protect and serve,” stated a reader opposed to the idea.
On Thursday morning, State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Van) issued a press release stating his support for Van ISD’s decision.
“I completely support the members of Van ISD School Board for their leadership and courage to face today’s concerns and challenges head on,” Flynn said in the press release.
Flynn also cited an e-mail Van ISD Superintendent Don Dunn sent to district faculty and staff on Tuesday.
In it, Flynn said, Dunn “reiterated his hope that ‘an armed intruder does not come to one of our campuses. And in regards to our new policy, I also pray we never have to fire a single shot.’”