As area school districts undertake safety procedure revisions and examine new security protocols, many residents say stronger measures are warranted.
“These kind of things occur where it’s never expected,” said Janice Barker, who has three school-aged children. “No one expected it to happen to a small town in Connecticut, and I don’t think anyone expects it to happen around here […] but you never know.”
Off duty police were on campus Tuesday at Northside Intermediate School and Wylie Elementary and Primary, doubling the number of armed officers patrolling Henderson Independent School District campuses.
A uniformed, off-duty officer is at Northside full-time where fourth- and fifth-grade students attend class. Another officer is on full-time duty at the Wylie campuses where pre-K through third-graders attend.
Stacey Sullivan, HISD Director of Human Resources and Communication, called the addition of the officers a reaction to the shootings last month at a school in Newtown, Conn.
“They’re going to be at entrances and be visible,” Sullivan said. “This will be something to improve the overall emergency plan.”
On Jan. 17 the Union Grove ISD school board voted unanimously to enact a policy to allow select teachers and staff to carry concealed firearms on campus for school security. Just a week later Van ISD enacted a similar policy.
In a Henderson Daily News poll during the week of Jan. 13-19, 58 percent of readers said school districts should train teachers to carry guns.
“Having off-duty officers on campus is great, and I’m in favor of it, but even the best police officer is no match for someone with tactical gear and automatic weapons,” said Henderson resident Chad Carter. “But if the teachers are armed too you create a situation where, anyone who even considers shooting up a school, is going to think twice […] because then, even if they avoid the officer, the teacher can stop them.”
Of those participating, 35 percent said districts should not train teachers to carry guns, with only 7 percent saying they were not sure.
“I think arming teachers is the wrong approach,” said retired coach and administrator Bobby Daniels. “If schools want to add police or security, that’s one thing […] but with everything else teachers have to handle, adding the responsibility of carrying a weapon and keeping the school safe is just a bridge too far.”
“I agree [with HISD’s approach] to the issue,” said Katy Graham, whose two children are not yet old enough to attend school. “Leave security and handling firearms to the police […] that’s their business, and they’re the ones with the training to handle it safely.”