It's been less than a week since the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, and since then debates over gun control have taken over the nation. One question several school districts are looking into is whether to allow their teachers to carry handguns on campus.
Texas Governor Rick Perry earlier this week publicly supported the idea of arming teachers in schools. For Harrold, Texas located just three hours west of Lubbock, this idea is nothing new.
A little more than three hours away from Lubbock and located west of Wichita Falls, the tiny community of Harrold has allowed their teachers to carry on campus since 2007 when the Guardian Plan was passed unanimously by its school board.
In light of the recent Connecticut shootings, the school district - only consisting of 103 students and 25 employees - is getting worldwide attention for its controversial program. "The community here as far as I know never had anyone here against it. They were all fine with it. It was the rest of the country that blew up in arms over it," father of two Harrold High School students Michael Hopkins said. "I'd rather have someone at the school protecting my children than stand there having to hid them in a closet with no way to protect themselves."
Creating the Guardian Plan was no easy task, and Harrold ISD superintendent David Thweatt says it took the district a year to develop the plan. Already having a high tech security system in place he says the school board wanted more after school shootings like Virginia Tech where more than 30 people were shot and killed.
"We spend a lot of money protecting money, but we don't spend any money protecting kids. We need to. We need to do everything we can to protect them," Thweatt said. He says arming the willing teachers was also necessary because the small community is more than 20 minutes away from the nearest law enforcement.
Four main components make up the plan. Thweatt says the teachers must have a concealed handgun license. They must undergo additional training in accuracy beyond what is taught at most police academies. The teachers must also be approved by the school board, and they can only use frangible ammunition. "When it hits a piece of wood or plaster wall, or anything hard it will break apart and therefore cut down on ricochet effect," Thweatt said.
Another main part of the plan is that no one besides the school board knows who or how many teachers are carrying. "Look at some of the data on burglars. One of the things they're most afraid of is going into an armed home. That's what they're afraid of, and they need to be afraid of that if they ever come to Harrold that's for sure," he said.
While the plan is uncontested in Harrold, many across the nation are strongly against implementing a program like this including Lubbock Cooper's Superintendent Pat Henderson. "This is not something I would recommend. Teachers didn't get into education to carry guns," Henderson said. "This is an accident waiting to happen." Henderson believes the best way to protect the students are to increase campus security and arming them, not teachers.
Despite the backlash from those saying guns and schools don't mix; Thweatt says he stands behind the school's plan to carry on campus. "When you make a law against something, the people who are interested in following the law are going to follow it. The kid that did this horrible thing in Connecticut, it was against the rules to bring a gun into the school, well that really stopped him didn't it?" Thweatt said.
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