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Argyle school district votes again to approve gun policy

Profile image for By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

ARGYLE — School board members voted unanimously a second time Wednesday to approve a controversial policy that will allow some teachers, administrators and other staff members to carry firearms on campus.

The new vote also authorizes some school board members to carry concealed guns at board meetings or on school property, a provision that was not spelled out in details provided by the school district after the previous vote. A copy of the policy was not posted until after board members voted on the policy last week.

Board President Kevin Faciane said the new vote was mostly “procedural in nature.”

The original agenda item posted for the board’s Jan. 21 vote contained an error in wording that had raised questions about whether the policy could be legally challenged. While the board felt its initial vote was valid, trustees also felt it was “prudent to eliminate any concern,” he said.

“Procedurally, there were some issues brought up about how the agenda item was listed,” Faciane said.

The new policy will go into effect immediately, Superintendent Telena Wright said. Signs warning visitors that some district staff would be armed and authorized to use force to protect students could be posted at district facilities as early as this week, she said.

Only one person attended the meeting to speak on the policy. Justin Davis, an Argyle father of four young children who owns a gun-training business, told trustees he supported the policy and offered firearms training to the district at no charge. He said he is co-owner of Consolidated Training Group, which according to its website has ranges in Weatherford, Argyle and Fort Worth.

“My kids go to school here, and I want them to be safe and I want the teachers who carry to be safe,” Davis said after the meeting. “I think every parent that has something to offer should offer it, and safety shouldn’t have a price.

“The teachers that are carrying are taking on a huge responsibility and you have to commend them for that.”

Under the policy, the school board may authorize “specific” district employees who are licensed to carry concealed handguns to take certain firearms on school campuses and to certain district-sanctioned events and board meetings. The policy also allows trustees to authorize a board member through a resolution to carry a concealed weapon if the board member has met the same training requirements as district staff.

Approved board members would be authorized to “possess” a firearm at school board meetings and on school property when they are there in their official capacity as a school trustee. It is not immediately clear how the board would authorize such a provision.

School staff approved for carrying firearms must pass a “rigorous interview process, a complete psychological evaluation and a comprehensive firearms and emergency response training course,” according to a press statement released by the district last week. District employees selected to carry firearms will be provided additional training as the school board deems “necessary or appropriate,” according to the policy.

District officials have said specific staff selected for the program will not be publicly identified and will be selected from a pool of volunteers. Some district employees participated in a pilot training program last fall.

The policy also gives the superintendent authority to determine the types of ammunition permitted in the firearms carried on district property, and states that the superintendent must “ensure the types permitted are designed to minimize ricochet effects and other possible collateral damage.”

When asked if the district would be purchasing firearms or ammunition for district staff, Faciane said information relating to procedures by which the district will implement the policy is not something the district wants made public.

The district’s decision to approve the policy followed the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed, Wright said. She said Argyle has seen no escalation in violence or threats of violence in recent years.

District officials in the last week have said allowing certain district employees to carry firearms on district property puts people on school campuses who can respond to an emergency in its initial minutes.

Public response for the guns-on-campus policy has generally been positive, Faciane said. Some responses have been received verbally and via e-mail, he said, and he had no way of quantifying the responses.

“We’ve had a few comments that did not support the policy, but overall, the comments from the community have been generally supportive of the policy,” he said.

Speaking out against the policy last week was Hilary Rand, regional manager for Texas for the national Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who said arming teachers only makes a “situation worse, not better.” She also said guns increase odds of people being shot and that “more guns lead to more accidents.”

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.