WASKOM, Texas (KTAL/KSHV) – The Waskom Independent School District announced Monday that they are adopting a new policy to arm staff members.
According to school officials, the Board of Trustees voted to allow the adoption of the new Guardian Program. The program allows certain staff members to be armed with guns on campus. Officials say the program does not replace the school resource officer and existing campus safety protocols.
The district says safety is its priority, “one of many measures they added to ensure staff and students stay safe in case an intruder comes onto the campus.”
Last year the deadliest shooting at an elementary school in a decade occurred in Uvalde, Texas. A former student at Robb Elementary fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 others. Parents and others expressed outrage at the delayed response by Uvalde police, and calls for additional safety measures increased.
The number of mass shootings in the U.S. has risen significantly in recent years, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research database. Concerns over school safety have given rise to debates on how to combat the violence. Mass shooting drills have been adopted by school districts nationwide.
An audit by the Texas School Safety Center showed of the 1,022 total districts, 524 (51%) reported using non-law enforcement security personnel. 280 of those districts cited using the Guardian Program.
By law, Guardians must-have classroom and weapons training, an annual psychological exam, and a license to conceal carry. The Texas Penal Code allows employees to carry weapons on campus if the district gives written authorization.
Guardians must take between 15 to 20 hours of instruction, including protecting students, interacting with first responders, denying intruders entry into a classroom or school facility, and increasing accuracy with a handgun under duress. Schools are required to charge a fee to cover the cost of instruction.
In addition to the Guardian Program, the district said they would install Silent Panic Alert Technology. According to school officials, this technology will allow staff to notify administrators, law enforcement, and other staff if there is a safety breach or intruder on the property. The system will appear as an app on district-issued devices for staff members.
Waskom ISD says they also applied for a safety grant to add more safety measures for each campus.