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Locked, Loaded, and Ready for School

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Gun Silouhette
courtesy Lisa Roe/flickr creative commons

School districts across Texas have had a rough go of things in the last couple years, starting with the Legislature’s $5.4 billion cut to public education funding in 2011. A lot of the state’s schools went on a starvation diet. Chronic underfunding of public education seems to be the state’s new norm. Which has left a lot of schools in Texas scrambling to find ways to pay for the bare necessities themselves. Take tiny Childress and Shamrock ISDs, two districts in the Panhandle that shelled out quite a bit of money—on guns. Childress ISD spent $150,000.

The money’s for more than just guns, of course—it’s for guns, and a support system for the guns, reports the Amarillo Globe-News.  The nearby town of Shamrock, with a population of 2,000 and a school district enrollment of about 430, paved the way for regional innovation with the installation of gun safes in classrooms, which would let staff members access heat in a hurry. Childress, with a population of a little over 6,100 and a school district enrollment of about 1,100, knew they were on to something good.

Childress ISD’s board approved a similar measure last year that allows certain school employees to access firearms kept in safes, [Superintendent Rick] Teran said. The school district devoted $150,000 to the purchase of firearms, safes, practice ammunition, a panic system and training, he said.

“With all the issues in the nation now, with gunmen coming into our schools and attacking our children, we felt it was our next step for our community,” Teran said.

It’s one of a number of precautions the rural schools are taking.

Childress and Shamrock’s programs include several training seminars, including a three-day session that included a simulated active-shooter situation, Teran said.
Childress police also have participated in active-shooter training in the elementary school, he said.
Childress ISD has completed other safety efforts, including hiring a liaison officer and installing a panic system that gives teachers access to hidden buttons in classrooms to alert law enforcement of a security issue, Teran said. The school district is also adding $150,000 in surveillance cameras, he said.

Teran showed the Globe-News he possessed a keen understanding of public education’s purpose. “We’re not here to take a life,” he said. “We’re here to protect children. Whether we’re safer or not, that’s up to each individual. But I think we’re a little more prepared.”

(Calls to Childress ISD were not returned.)

Questions abound: How long would it take a determined student to find a way into one of those safes? What happens if an adult in the school snaps? How much training is enough to effectively respond to a threat? If they’re going to be armed, are they armed enough? Could they defeat an intruder with body armor and an assault rifle?

It would be easy to poke fun at Childress ISD’s plan. But it’s part of a broader trend, and it’s not completely irrational. School shootings have become part and parcel of American life. Any individual school is very unlikely to be affected by one, but the horror when one is is enough to push schools to take extraordinary precautions. Although little Childress is an unlikely target, no one can really say what the likely targets are.

The parents and administrators of Childress ISD are trying, as best as they can figure how, to safeguard and bolster their children’s future. This is an wholly imperfect way to do that, but the sad thing is that we as a society haven’t given better options to the district’s frightened parents.

Childress has lagged behind academically: In recent years, they’ve fallen behind state average test scores. The $300,000 the school district spent on guns, panic buttons, and security cameras is the going rate of ten new teachers, according to salary information obtained by the Texas Tribune—or could pay for five for two years, two new teachers for five years, etc.

Or it could pay an additional college counselor’s salary for five years, with enough money to keep the debate and math clubs waist deep in the finest pizza Childress has to offer.

But instead, the “arm the teachers” plan is spreading—the Globe-News reports that Bushland ISD, near Amarillo, may take up a similar measure. A number of other schools around Texas already allow some personnel to carry concealed weapons on school premises. Tiny Leverett’s Chapel ISD, in East Texas, made that legal last year, with the charmingly evocative condition that “only ammunition designed to have reduced ricochet hazard will be permitted.” But Childress’ decision to purchase guns directly makes its situation somewhat unusual.

So Childress kids, and kids elsewhere, will have to wait on the next session of the Legislature for those extra college counselors—though they shouldn’t hold their breath.

  • balconesfalk

    This is disgusting! There is no rational excuse for this fraudulent allocation of precious school tax money. It makes me sick to think that the NRA has the ear of so many members of the Texas Legislature to make something as crazy as this use of school funds come to pass into law.

  • Ty Mellon

    Yet they challenge science. Sometimes I’m really embarrassed to be a Texan…effing hillbillies.

    • 1bimbo

      then leave

      • Ty Mellon

        Thanks. Good contribution.

        • 1bimbo

          you’re welcome.. to leave still

          • Ty Mellon

            Thanks. Still. Another solid contribution. How much of your company’s hourly $8.50 did you waste typing that while on the clock?

          • 1bimbo

            for you, my advise is at no expense

          • Ty Mellon

            I think your advice is at everybody’s expense…

  • 1bimbo

    ‘chronic underfunding’ my @ss.. why don’t you go down to the border and see the palatial school facilities bought and paid for by texas taxpayers.. when you stop ‘redistributing the wealth’ as was ushered in by ann richards, districts keep their money and looney liberals don’t have to freak out about expenditures tied to A2 and securing schools.. plus educators are notorious for wasting money.. instead of holding teachers accountable they think throwing more money at everything is the remedy

    • Jed

      you do know robin hood had nothing to do with the governor’s office, and you’re just being disingenuous, right?

      • 1bimbo

        the origin of robinhood is documented. richards campaigned on it.. facts are facts.. everything democrats try to do causes mayhem in texas.. lbj and his welfare campaign.. now blacks are relegated to the economic plantation.. ann richards and her school ‘equality’.. now most school districts lose millions of dollars and struggle.. own it, progressive liberals, the longterm impact of your policy causes misery

    • fatibel

      As if some brown kids don’t deserve the same chance you got. America is built on the ideal of educating all children, regardless of their social status, income level or skin color. I, for one, don’t want to live in a state surrounded by ignorant masses and a few, well-educated snobs.
      I applaud any attempt to equalize the education every public school student receives. Any child who is denied a decent education is a potential businessman, doctor or scientist whose potential will be unrealized. Even the most stingy, short-sighted conservatives should see the waste of unexploited resources and the return on investment potential of quality education.

      • SWohio

        The historical record compiled by the Department of Education itself shows that increased government spending on education does not improve the academic performance of government schools.

        “From 1989-90 to 2006-07, total expenditures per student in public elementary and secondary schools rose from $8,748 to $11,839 (a 35 percent increase in 2008-09 constant dollars), with most of the increase occurring after 1997-98,” says the Education Department’s The Condition of Education 2010.

        In 1980, 17-year-old students in public schools earned an average score of 284 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. In 2008, they still scored 284. Despite increased per pupil spending, the needle did not move.

        In 1999, 17-year-old students in American public schools earned an average score of 307 out of 500 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math test. In 2008, they scored 305. The needle moved in the wrong direction.

        Every community in America should give all parents a voucher equal to what it now pays per-pupil for its public schools, allowing those parents to use those vouchers at any school they choose. Let the market decide if government-run schools survive.

  • papatrouble05

    Texas sucks