A forum on arming educators Monday night featured arguments for and against the plan, but East Central community members still left with a lot of unanswered questions.
One audience member wanted to know how many hours of training staff would have. Another asked if a teacher who carries a gun would be required to leave their classroom in search of an active shooter.
At the end of the forum, East Central school board President Steve Bryant told the audience that a draft of the policy to arm staff will be made available before it is voted on. But he said some things will never be public knowledge in order to keep staff safe.
“You will never know who is carrying a weapon. You will never know the classifications of employees — whether they are teachers, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers or administrators,” Bryant said. “Local law enforcement will know that those people exist and there will be coordination with them so they can be identified (and not be confused with the shooter).”
The format of the forum was set up to lay out arguments for and against the controversial policy. District leadership spoke at the beginning and end of the public event, but didn’t take part in the panel discussion.
Supportive panelists said it could help save lives during a mass shooting.
“Until the shooting starts — I don’t care if it’s 15 seconds or 11 minutes, in my case. Help getting there in time to save lives is what I’m most interested in,” said David Colbath, a gun owner who was wounded in the Sutherland Springs church shooting.
Meanwhile, opponents of the plan said bringing guns to school could put students at greater risk.
“I don’t want fear to fuel an argument that more guns mean that our children are more protected, because, in fact, I think the little data that’s out there tends to say there’s a much greater chance of a negligent discharge or misplaced weapon,” said Laura Aten, a retired East Central teacher.
Trustees are expected to consider giving staff the option of carrying a gun at their board meeting later this month. If East Central adopts the policy, it would be the first in Bexar County.
East Central High School senior Celeste Castillo said she hopes the board goes through a long, careful process before making a decision.
“Teachers usually never been through that kind of situation, like someone’s going to come in and shoot us,” Castillo said. “So how are they going to know how to protect us?”
According to a district survey, 48 percent of East Central community members and 56 percent of employees are in favor of arming staff.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille