Santa Fe ISD officials announced that specific employees, upon approval of local school boards, can voluntarily carry weapons on their persons on campus, as part of the state’s “Guardian Program.”
“The Guardian Program adds to the safety and security infrastructure, training, and resource enhancements that have been taking place across the district over the past several years,” Santa Fe ISD said in a Mar. 6 statement (pdf), adding that more than 300 districts across Texas have implemented the same school safety program.
Beginning on Mar. 16, when Santa Fe students and staff return from spring break, signs will be placed around school buildings indicating that personnel on campus may be armed, according to the statement. This implementation is not expected to have an additional impact on students, staff, or their everyday routine.
To qualify for Guardian Program, the volunteering teacher must own a Texas-issued license to carry a gun. The volunteer also has to go through criminal background screening and psychological evaluations using the same process and standards as those who apply to be police officers. Once accepted, the participant will be required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of training and meet the same marksmanship standards as a Santa Fe ISD police officer.
The district said to maintain the integrity of the program; it would not make public who or how many are participating.
Flo Rice, a former substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School, told The Texas Tribune that she welcomed the implementation of the Guardian Plan. Rice was injured on May 18, 2018, when 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire at his school.
“I understand the other side that does not want more guns in the schools,” said the mass shooting survivor. “But I just know from my personal experience and what happened to me, [the Guardian Plan] could have made a difference in the outcome.”
“We’re not creating programs where we’re going to have people out there acting as first responders,” School board President Rusty Norman told Texas Tribune. “This is just another layer as a last line of defense if something gets past all of those other layers and becomes an issue in a classroom or hallway or one of the school facilities, that someone may be there that could protect themselves along with all the students and staff that are around them.”