Texas students pack bookbags; teachers pack heat

Associated Press Published: August 26, 2008
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HARROLD, Texas (AP) -- Along with normal first-day jitters and excitement, students in this tiny district started school Monday wondering which teachers might be toting firearms.

"It was kind of awkward knowing that some teachers were carrying guns," said Adam Lira, 17, a senior. "I don't feel like they should be, 'cause we already have locked doors and cameras. But I didn't feel threatened by it."

Several parents said they had no idea that employees of the K-12 school were allowed to carry concealed guns on campus until recent publicity about the school board's policy, approved quietly last fall. They said they were upset that the rural community near the Oklahoma border had not been able to give input.

While some parents said they felt their children were safer, others opposed the plan, which appears to be the first of its kind nationwide.

"As far as I'm concerned, teachers were trained to educate my children - not carry a gun. Even police officers need years of training in hostage situations," said Traci McKay, whose three children are among the 110 students in the red-brick Harrold school. "I don't want my child looking over her shoulder wondering who's carrying a gun."

But Harrold Superintendent David Thweatt said the board approved the policy in an October open meeting that had been publicized. He said the decision was made after nearly two years of researching the best school security options at the school, which is just off a busy highway and 30 minutes away from the sheriff's office.

"When you outlaw guns in a certain area, the only people who follow that are law-abiding citizens, and everybody else ignores it," Thweatt said.

The superintendent said some of the school's 50 employees are carrying weapons, but he wouldn't say how many. When pressed further, he first said that revealing that number might jeopardize school security. He then added that he considered it to be personnel information and not a matter of public record.

Each employee who wants to carry a weapon first must be approved by the board based on his or her personality and reaction to a crisis, Thweatt said. In addition to training required for a state concealed weapons license, they also must be trained to handle crisis intervention and hostage situations.


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