Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on opening day of 83rd Legislative Session, Jan. 8, 2013
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called Friday for the state to consider funding specialized firearms training for school employees, along with other school safety plans.
The announcement echoed remarks Dewhurst made Friday morning while speaking at a conservative policy summit, where according to the Associated Press he said that under his plan school districts would choose who would receive the training, which would expand on what the state requires for concealed handgun license applicants. The training would include how to react in an active shooter situation like the one that claimed 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December.
"God forbid we should have an active shooter crisis in our schools," Dewhurst said. "Eight hours of instruction and two hours on the range is not sufficient."
In a statement released to the media Friday afternoon, Dewhurst asked state senators to hold a hearing on the topic.
Texas school boards can already grant permission to anyone, including employees, to carry firearms on campus under the federal Gun-Free Schools Act and state law. One school district — Harrold ISD, which enrolls about 100 students near the Oklahoma border — currently has a policy that allows teachers to carry weapons in the classroom.
Victoria Calder, the director of the Texas School Safety Center, said that it was important that any program to increase armed security on campuses included specialized training for the school setting. She said that because only one school district in the state, and few in the country, currently had employee firearms policies, there was not much evidenced-based research available on their effectiveness.
The lieutenant governor's proposal drew quick criticism from at least two state teachers' groups. Clay Robison, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association, said that if lawmakers wanted to spend money on school security, they should fund professional armed guards — not training for school employees.
"Teachers did not sign up to be security guards, they signed up to teach," he said.
The president of the Association of Texas Profession Educators, Deann Lee, released a statement questioning the liability such a program might present for school districts.
“As an educator with a handgun license, I would not want to be one of the designees,” Lee said. “I feel the margin of error and the incredible liability these ideas would place on a school district could be devastating. A tremendous amount of training would be needed before someone other than a law enforcement or military officer could make the decisions necessary in such a position of responsibility.”
Dewhurst's announcement comes as two other Republicans, state Rep. Jason Villalba, of Dallas, and state Rep. Debbie Riddle, of Tomball, have announced that they intend to file their own legislation expanding the rights of school employees to carry firearms on campus.
Villalba said he envisioned a program modeled on the federal air marshal program that would deputize school employees with special training to use firearms as the last line of defense during an attack.
Riddle said she favored allowing teachers who have concealed handgun licenses to carry their weapons in the classroom, but she has not offered details on how her bill would change current law.
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