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East Central ISD Holds Forum On Arming Teachers

Pixabay (Public Domain) http://bit.ly/2T7dLhj

The East Central Independent School District is holding a panel Monday evening to discuss whether or not the district should allow teachers and staff to carry a gun.

The forum is part of the district’s effort to inform community members about the possibility of arming staff ahead of a board vote expected later this month.

The East Central board of trustees is considering adopting the guardian plan, one of two ways schools can arm teachers under Texas law. The board delayed voting on the plan in November after parents and educators expressed concern over what they saw as a lack of community awareness and input.

Panel members include retired East Central teacher Laura Aten, Ecumenical Center Director Mary Beth Fisk, Sutherland Springs shooting survivor David Colbath and Rod Ellis, a Georgia school police chief. Robert Rivard, editor of the Rivard Report, will moderate.

IF YOU GO WHAT: East Central ISD forum on arming teachers WHERE: East Central High School's Gary Patterson Center for the Performing Arts, 7173 FM 1628 San Antonio, TX 78263 WHEN: 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. Monday. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Aten spoke against the plan during public comments at the November board meeting; Colbath is a gun owner whobelieves in arming himself for protection.

According to an information sheet compiled by East Central superintendent Roland Toscano in December, the district is considering the guardian plan because it is “in the best interest of everyone’s safety to consider all options for immediate response in the gap between an attack and the arrival of police officers.”

Toscano said staff members who volunteer to participate in the guardian plan would undergo training and a psychological exam and would share expenses with the district. The superintendent said adopting the plan would not increase the cost of liability insurance.

East Central posted an online survey about adopting the guardian plan in mid-December. According to the district, 48 percent of community members and 56 percent of employees were in favor of arming staff. Almost 2,000 people participated in the survey.

More than 200 Texas school districts have adopted policies allowing teachers and other staff to carry guns,according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Most of the districts are small and rural and don’t have police on campus.

If East Central adopts the guardian plan, it will be the first Bexar County district to allow educators to carry guns. With more than 10,000 students, ECISD is larger and more urban than many districts with guardian plans, and it has a dedicated police force. However, East Central covers a larger geographic area than many San Antonio districts.

Located near Sutherland Springs, East Central’s comprehensive, trauma-informed school violence prevention plan is considered a model for the region.

Camille Phillips can be contacted at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.