Westwood ISD met Monday night to consider whether they should become the third East Texas school district to have armed staff members on campus.
The public meeting is over what district officials are calling "The Guardian Plan."
Westwood Superintendent Ed Lyman says the schools belong to the community and he wants to hear what they think about arming teachers on Westwood campuses. He said he does not expect there to be a lot of opposition to the idea but says parents will probably have some questions for him.
"There's quite a number of citizens who have already called in favor of the plan but they also want details and specifics on how it will be implemented," Lyman said.
Most of the parents at Monday night's meeting say they just want what's best for the children.
"I want my child to be protected so if it helps to protect my child then I'm for it," says Sherry Burk, a Westwood ISD parent.
"The biggest thing is safety concerns. You know just want to make sure kids don't have access to those weapons that the teachers may be carrying," says Denise Kennedy, another Westwood ISD parent.
Superintendent Lyman says teachers should be the first line of defense in the event of an invasion by an armed individual.
He believes arming several teachers on each campus will protect students and deter armed people from trying to enter the schools.
"The Guardian Plan is actually our effort as educators to do our jobs to protect our kids and to make sure that gun-free zones don't become targets," he said.
According to Lyman, places that ban law abiding citizens from carrying firearms, such as schools and movie theaters, provide little or no protection from an outsider bringing a gun in.
"School invasions and school murders, these things have got to stop and the only way they can truly be stopped is by having trained law abiding citizens armed to protect our kids," he said.
The Anderson County Sheriffs Office and the Palestine Police Department are working with the school district to make sure, if the policy is approved, teachers get the proper training they need to carry a weapon. They also want to make sure an emergency plan is in place.
"With proper training and policies in place, law enforcement encourages more help because we are first responders, we aren't there," says Sheriff Greg Taylor of the Anderson County Sheriffs Office.
Westwood Elementary School recently had an incident wherein a man involved in an assault nearby ran onto their campus. Lyman says on top of the policy to arm teachers, the district plans to take other safety measures, such as improving our fencing and increasing our cameras and alarm systems.
Lyman says the armed teachers will be volunteers who have a current state license to carry a concealed handgun and are eligible to possess a firearm on school property. Those teachers will have to keep their weapon on them at all times.
THe Westwood ISD school board will re-visit the "Guardian Plan" at their next meeting on February 11. Officials will vote at that meeting on whether or not to add armed teachers to the district's schools.
If the "Guardian Plan" is approved, Lyman says Westwood ISD schools could have armed teachers on their campuses by the end of February.
Van ISD and Union Grove ISD passed measures earlier this month to arm selected campus staff.
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