Jonesboro, TX — A rural Central Texas school district is joining a handful of other schools in the state allowing certain teachers to carry guns.
Jonesboro ISD says they've considered the idea even before recent talks of new legislation and the crisis at Sandy Hook Elementary. In fact, Superintendent Matt Dossey recalls a time when a felon was at-large in the area, and authorities weren't sure if he was armed. Dossey says the man was spotted the next morning just feet away from the school. Situations like this, Dossey says, make having armed teachers necessary.
Dossey and other district officials say it's too easy for someone to come upon their campus and cause harm before authorities, who are miles away, ever arrive.
"It's been a lot of thought put into this. It's not something that we took lightly," said Dossey.
Dossey says his district's newly adopted "Guardian Angel Program", known as GAP, which allows teachers to carry guns on campus, is in the best interest of everyone. Especially, he says, with the nearest aid in a crisis situation coming from about 18 miles away at the Hamilton Sheriff's Department.
"We're looking at law enforcement, medical, first responders, you know, anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes to be here," said Dossey.
The gap policy was mandated on January 17, and already, more than 90 percent of the district's 27 employees want to participate. However, only a select group will be allowed to carry guns. Those selected will remain anonymous, as not to jeopardize the teacher-student relationship or make those teachers targets. Jonesboro ISD currently has 173 students enrolled.
The six to eight week long concealed handgun training for GAP is expected to be rigorous with other components as well.
"But, they also have to go through crisis intervention, hostage management situation training, as well as have psychological evaluations. And, instead of having a onetime criminal background check when they're employed, we'll do yearly," said Dossey.
Another safety measure, already in place by the district, requires that all teachers keep their doors locked.
Jonesboro ISD joins a handful of other schools in the state allowing teachers to arm themselves. Harrold ISD has similar demographics, Dossey says, and they've armed teachers since 2008. Dossey also says Harrold ISD was the first school in the nation to have such a policy. He also says Union Grove ISD has adopted a concealed gun policy for teachers.
Already, Jonesboro ISD's policy is receiving praise from parents and surrounding school districts looking to do the same thing.
"It kind of gives you some relief that, you know, you're not stepping out there on a limb by yourself," said Dossey.
Dossey says he's had at least eight other districts call him to inquire about GAP.
Training for GAP has already begun, and teachers are expected to be through with training in a couple of months. Dossey expects the school board may implement more training down the road.