Michelle Maskaly at Fox News reports:
A tiny Texas school district may have been the first in the nation to pass a law specifically allowing teachers and staff to pack heat — in 2008.
Trustees at the Harrold Independent School District approved a district policy change in 2007 so employees can carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings, provided the gun-toting teachers follow certain requirements.
Superintendent David Thweatt told FOXNews.com the policy was initiated because of safety concerns.
“We have had employees assaulted before by people in the last several years,” Thweatt said. “I think that safety is big concern. We are seeing a lot of anger in society.”
He wouldn’t comment further on the nature of the assaults.
The Texas superintendent linked gun-free zones with the uprising of school shootings in recent years.
“When you make schools gun-free zones, it’s like inviting people to come in and take advantage,” Thweatt told FOXNews.com.
In order for teachers and staff to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun; must be authorized to carry by the district; must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and must use ammunition that is designed to minimize the risk of ricochet in school halls.
Thweatt said the small community is a 30-minute drive from the sheriff’s office, leaving students and teachers without protection. He said the district’s lone campus sits 500 feet from heavily trafficked U.S. 287, which could make it a target.
The kindergarten through 12th grade school district is home to 110 students.
Thweatt said officials researched the policy and considered other options for about a year before approving the policy change. He said the district also has various other security measures in place to prevent a school shooting.
“The naysayers think [a shooting] won’t happen here,” Thweatt said. “If something were to happen here, I’d much rather be calling a parent to tell them that their child is OK because we were able to protect them.”
He told FOXNews.com he doesn’t think students will think twice about the new policy.
“I hope they forget all about it,” he said. “We want them to pay attention [to their school work].”
Texas law outlaws firearms on school campuses “unless pursuant to the written regulations or written authorization of the institution.”
While the district’s plan shot them into the national spotlight, carrying guns to school is nothing new some states. In Utah, the law allows anyone with a permit to carry a gun in public schools and state institutions of higher education.
It was unclear how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members are armed because Thweatt did not disclose that information, to keep it from students or potential attackers.
Wilbarger County Sheriff Larry Lee did not immediately return a call placed to his office by FOXNews.com.
Barbara Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Boards, said her organization did not know of another district with such a policy. Ken Trump, a Cleveland-based school security expert who advises districts nationwide, including in Texas, said Harrold is the first district with such a policy.
The district is 150 miles northwest of Fort Worth on the eastern end of Wilbarger County, near the Oklahoma border.