Up In Arms: After the Sandy Hook Tragedy, Some Texas Schools Arm Their Teachers


After the Sandy Hook tragedy, some Texas schools arm their teachers.
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    Photos by Lance Rosenfield.
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    Carolyn Billington shoots a 9mm Smith & Wesson during a concealed handgun training class offered to teachers and staff of Clifton Independent School District in Clifton, Texas. She is a receptionist at Clifton Elementary School. (Lance Rosenfield)
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    A 9mm magazine held by Carolyn Billington, during a concealed handgun training class. (Lance Rosenfield)
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    Carolyn Billington, left, receives training from Luke Price of Big Iron Concealed Handgun Training at a concealed handgun training class near Valley Mills. (Lance Rosenfield)
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    Brenda Finstad, left, and Sheila Musselman, right, collect their targets after a shooting session during a concealed handgun training class for teachers and staff of Clinton Independent School District. (Lance Rosenfield)
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    Teachers from Killeen ISD train for their concealed handgun license with Johnny Price of Big Iron. (Lance Rosenfield)
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    Jonesboro ISD Superintendent Matt Dossey in the high-school hallway. Jonesboro has implemented a policy allowing some teachers to carry concealed handguns in school. Dossey often carries a concealed weapon. (Lance Rosenfield)
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    A sign posted at the entrance to Jonesboro ISD. (Lance Rosenfield)

In December 2012, just one American school district—in tiny Harrold, Texas, west of Wichita Falls—let teachers carry guns at school. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that month, school boards across the state and country are following Harrold’s lead.

Since January, at least seven more Texas school districts have seen the wisdom of arming teachers: Union Grove, Cayuga, Van, Westwood, Jonesboro, Ganado and Louise ISDs. They’re spread across the state, but all are very small, and most are far from the nearest police.

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“It’s a different mindset of the people and the culture out here in rural communities,” says Matt Dossey, superintendent of Jonesboro ISD west of Waco (see photo, page 15). Kids grow up around guns, and everyone helps to keep the town running—Dossey is the town’s Baptist pastor, too. If there’s a crisis at his school, outside help is half an hour away.

Dossey got shivers thinking about his school trying to cope with a Sandy Hook-style shooting. Under the district’s “Guardian Angel Program,” a few teachers can carry guns in secret. “This isn’t some game,” he says. “This isn’t the Old West. This is a serious, serious deal.”

The risks of bringing more guns into schools became clear in late February when a maintenance worker in the Van ISD in East Texas accidentally shot himself at a district-sponsored gun training.

But whatever the risks, there will undoubtedly soon be more guns in Texas schools. —Patrick Michels

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Published at 9:30 am CST