05 28 2015

Van ISD Policy Draws Strong Reactions

By David Kapitan
Staff Writer
On Monday, January 21, the Van ISD Board of Trustees paved the way for Van to become the first local district to allow certain, specified employees to carry concealed handguns in school and at school-related events.
The newly adopted Van ISD policy reads, in part:
“The Board adopts the following policy to address concerns about effective and timely response to emergency situations at schools, including invasion of the schools by an armed outsider, hostage situations, students who are armed and posing a direct threat of physical harm to themselves or others, and similar cirumstances.
…the Board may, from time to time, authorize specific school employees to possess certain firearms on school property, at school-sponsored or school-sanctioned events, and at Board meetings. Specifically authorized individuals shall be approved by separate action of the Board. The Board shall issue written authorization to approved employees.
…Only those authorized school employees who have obtained and maintain a current license, in accordance with state law, to carry a concealed handgun are eligible to be authorized to possess a firearm on school property.
…Any school employee authorized to possess a firearm on school property shall be provided additional training in crisis intervention, management of hostage situations and other training as the Board or designee may determine necessary or appropriate.”
Prompted by Van ISD’s decision, Van Zandt Newspapers posted a prompt on each of our four local Facebook pages (for the Van Zandt News, Wills Point Chronicle, Canton Herald, and Van Banner), asking followers to weigh in on the decision, and whether they would support such a policy in their own local school system.
Within hours of being posted, the prompts generated hundreds of “likes” and comments in favor of the new Van ISD policy.
One person in favor of the decision noted, “There are likely already teachers there who have their concealed handgun licenses. They probably carry weapons most everywhere else they go. They (like me) are armed at the grocery store, at the park, at the movie theater, at the mall, at church. They’ve had training and demonstrated proficiency with their weapons; they’ve passed a test on laws governing use of deadly force. They don’t suddenly become incapable of handling their guns safely because they step into the doors of a school building. Allowing them to have the means to protect themselves and the children wouldn’t cost the school district any extra money (as hiring armed guards would). Not allowing them to do that just doesn’t make any sense.”
Another commenter wrote, “Totally for it. You can say all you want about “law enforcement only” but how long does it take for a bullet to kill someone? Less time than it takes a cop to get to the school. I do believe that if the teacher feels safe carrying a gun on their person they should be able to do so to protect the children… Who says the kids even have to know their teacher has a gun?!? Do we really think that they can not handle the responsibility?”
Although the majority of people expressed their support of the Van ISD decision, others expressed their doubts that such a measure could potentially cause more harm than good.
One respondent noted, “It’s an interesting idea but when I think it through it doesn’t sound very feasible. For example, it’s harder than you think to conceal a gun. Teachers don’t walk around with a purse or a jacket on all day. And with kids staring at you as you teach it won’t take long for word to get out that you carry. And word spreads like wildfire. You would have to be mindful of it at every moment and teachers are easily distracted.”
Someone else echoed the sentiment against, writing, “Nobody should be armed in schools except for the POLICE. We train a lot for these situations, and they are not a “ please drop the weapon” situation, it’s a “stop the threat” meaning they have gun and they will be eliminated. I would hate to be the officer entering an active shooter at a school and not know who “bad guy” is and who the teacher is. Maybe the government should put armed officers in schools, or give the school districts money to pay for off-duty officers.”
After reviewing the Van ISD policy, and comments released by the district, several Wills Point school officials offered their thoughts on whether they would consider or support such a policy on local campuses.
School board member Bryan Southard stated, “I haven’t really had the chance to dive in and review it, and we haven’t discussed it as a board, but I can say that the safety of the kids is paramount. I have two kids already in the district, and another one that will start soon. I’d have to review the pros and cons of it. I’m not close-minded about it, but I’d have to see the facts and statistics before I can make a decision.”
Fellow board member Paul Sharp echoed Southard’s sentiment, stating, “We haven’t formally discussed, but it’s definitely something we’re going to look at as a board. Our top priority as a board is to have a policy that’s tailored to making sure that everyone is safe.”
Other board members were either unavailable, or declined comment pending further review and discussion at a future Wills Point ISD board meeting.

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