Guns in classrooms at small Texas town

Print
Email
|

by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and Photojournalist ERIN COKER

khou.com

Posted on February 8, 2013 at 9:45 AM

HARROLD, Texas -- Surrounded by miles of machines drilling for oil and acres of cotton fields, trains rarely stop in the small town of Harrold, Texas. The town of about 200 people is two hours north of Dallas.

It's difficult to imagine this part of rural America could be anything but a safe place to live and a safe place to put children through school.

"That is that misnomer about rural America; that it's absolutely safe because obviously we have the ear marks of what a lot of people assume about being a danger area," said David Thweatt.

Thweatt is the superintendent of Harrold ISD - home to one school, K through 12.

107 students and a number of teachers and staff who carry concealed handguns.

Exactly how many is not publicly known, Thweatt refuses to reveal how many of his staff are armed, including himself.

In 2007, Thweatt convinced the district's school board to allow staff to carry concealed handguns.
 
The idea was spawned after the Virginia Tech Shooting and the Amish school shooting in Pennsylvania in 2006.

"And that was the milk delivery man. That concerned us because he was a friend of the school's and we would have let him in the school. We would have let him in the door. It wouldn't have matter what security we had, or how proactive we could be have had an active shooter that was going to hurt our kids," Thweatt said.

Another concern is that being a small town, if law enforcement needed to respond to the school in an emergency, it would take them 20 to 30 minutes to get there.

"These shootings are taking places in minutes and we don't have that opportunity to call somebody in," Thweatt said.

Parents echoed concerns.

Carae Reinisch transferred her two boys here for the district's smaller class sizes and the security.

"I hate that it has to come to that - that it plays a role in choosing your child's school or not...I think that it soothes a lot of parents," Reinisch said.

When Andy asked Thweatt, "do you ever wonder what would happen if one of the handguns got into the wrong hands?"

"Yeah, I think that's an issue.... but I don't worry about that as much because part of our policy is that they can never take them off," David replied.

Students are told to not appear concerned. Including the superintendent's son, Harrison.

"I know these people. I'm trusting to further my education. I'm kinda trusting them with my life already," Harrison Thweatt said.

"It's just like any utensil around here. Just like a fork, a spoon. We have guns," said student Matt Templeton

The district's gun policy is voluntary. Those who want the responsibility, must get approval from the school board, and get a concealed handgun license.

The district also demands that these CHL holders get additional training to improve their accuracy, beyond what's required for a CHL.

Kent Morrison, with Austin's BSG security, says extra training is a must.

"What we're talking about in a defensive situation is accuracy to hit your intended target, whatever that target may be and not hit unintended targets," Morrison said.

Some state lawmakers agree with the district's gun policy.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst wants the state to pay for staff firearm training in the handful of districts that allow guns in the classroom.

"In case we've got school personnel with a concealed handgun permit that are in that school and there's an active shooter, we don't want the children harmed, we don't want the teacher harmed," Dewhurst said.

"It's the wrong direction," said Ken Zarifis

Zarifis is president of Education Austin. He argues the policy puts an unnecessary responsibility on teachers already overwhelmed and underpaid.

"I do not oppose the Second Amendment. I don't oppose owning a gun. I do oppose taking our state dollars that should go to education and putting into gun safety and gun carrying. I believe educational dollars should go to education," Zarifis said.

"You've got to have people armed, ready to protect kids," Thweatt said.

Thweatt says no one in the district has ever used their gun, and he hopes it will stay that way.

Harrold ISD uses frangible bullets, which are still deadly if shot at a close range, but will break apart if they hit a hard service like a wall.

Thweatt said he suspects similar policies will be the norm across rural Texas within a year.
 

Print
Email
|