In light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary near Newton, Conn., in which 20 students and six adults were murdered, a school district in Texas points to an innovative program designed to stop shooters even before law enforcement can respond to the scene.
School bus drivers in the Harrold Independent School District in rural Texas, about 175 miles northwest of Dallas, are eligible to carry firearms along with the district's other employees. This came about as a result of a policy adopted in 2007 for the safety of the students and staff. The school is 17 miles from the county seat, the sheriff and five deputies.
The district refers to the policy because, if there is an emergency on campus, it takes at least 30 minutes for law enforcement to respond. The move was praised by some, condemned by others, but Superintendent David Thweatt stuck to his guns in defending the policy as a sound tactical move.
Thweatt cited delayed response times at during the shootings at Virginia Tech, Columbine and the West Nickel Mines Amish School shootings as reasons for adopting the policy. But not all staff is armed, and the ones who are carrying remain anonymous, even to students. The policy only refers to "employees."
Thweatt declined to outline the tactical training provided to staff except to say it is intense, covers hostage situations and shooting accuracy. He said Harrold employees are second only to the Texas Highway Patrol in shooting accuracy.
"We don't have to worry about police officers or Miranda rights," he said. "All we have to worry about is there is somebody with a gun or knife and they're hurting people, so we shoot them."
Editor's note — This article is an excerpt of a feature published in the January 2013 edition of School Transportation News magazine.