HARROLD, Texas A tiny Texas district will allow teachers and staff members to carry concealed firearms to deter and protect against school shootings when classes begin this month, provided the gun-toting employees follow certain requirements.
The small community of Harrold in north Texas is a 30-minute drive from the Wilbarger County Sheriff's Office, leaving students and teachers without protection, said David Thweatt, superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District. The lone campus of the 110-student district sits near a heavily traveled highway, which could make it a target, he argued.
"When the federal government started making schools gun-free zones, that's when all of these shootings started. Why would you put it out there that a group of people can't defend themselves? That's like saying 'sic 'em' to a dog," Thweatt said in a story published on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Web site.
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, said Harrold is the first district with such a policy.
Trustees approved the policy change last year. For employees 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 ammunition designed to minimize the risk of ricocheting bullets.
Officials researched the policy and considered other options for about a year before approving the policy change, Thweatt said. The district also has other measures in place to prevent a school shooting, he said.
"The naysayers think (a shooting) won't happen here. 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," Thweatt said.
Texas law outlaws firearms at schools unless specific institutions allow them.
It isn't clear how many of the 50 or so teachers and staff members will be armed this fall because Thweatt did not disclose that information, to keep it from students or potential attackers.