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Leverett's Chapel ISD to allow concealed carry by staff members

By by Reese Gordon rgordon@news-journal.com
Sept. 5, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Faculty and staff at Leverett's Chapel ISD have been given the green light to carry concealed weapons on campus this fall, Superintendent Donna Johnson said Thursday.

Johnson said the decision, made during the district's board of trustees meeting Aug. 26, will greatly enhance the ability of the small school district to protect its students.

"We are a rural district," Johnson said. "We don't have police officers right here that would be here immediately and they can never get here fast enough. We're not saying this is going to solve all of our problems, but we're just trying to do the best we can."

Johnson said the staff members who will carry concealed firearms will be required to have advanced weapons training beyond what is required for the basic Concealed Handgun License.

It is against the law for a person to bring a weapon onto a school campus - but there is an exception if the school board authorizes specific school employees to possess guns on school property, at school-sponsored or school-sanctioned events, and at board meetings.

Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Price said he commends and supports the district for taking a "proactive stance" toward protecting the safety of students and staff.

"Even if it was only one or two minutes until law enforcement arrived, it may be too late," he said. "I look at this from the perspective of the school district trying its best to protect its students. I can't fault them for that."

But Price said he has some concerns over school staff members carrying guns because they are not trained in crisis situations like a certified peace officer.

"If you have a situation of that nature, we're (law enforcement) coming," the sheriff said. "The staff need to know what to do once law enforcement shows up. We don't want to have an incident on top of an incident."

Price and Rusk County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. David Roberts said law enforcement focus on whether or not someone has a gun.

"As law enforcement, you get tunnel vision," Roberts said. "You've got one thing on your mind and that's neutralizing the threat and going home that day to your family. Our biggest fear is that we respond to a report of a gun on campus and a teacher or staff member doesn't drop that gun fast enough. God forbid we kill a teacher or staff member who was just protecting their students."

Price said his department is not authorized to provide weapons training to the faculty at Leverett's Chapel ISD, but he would be willing to recommend groups who would.

Leverett's Chapel ISD is not the first rural Northeast Texas school district to approve the arming of educators. In January, Union Grove ISD become the <a href="http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/union-grove-isd-oks-arming-some-teachers-administrators/article_88f3aa07-12f4-5df1-ad82-4a06503e9f8d.html" target="_blank">second school district in Texas</a> to allow concealed carry on campus.

For the protection of the faculty and students, Texas law prevents disclosing the identity of school staff who carry concealed guns on campus.

"We aren't going to let anybody know," Johnson said. "Our other employees don't even know. We feel like if that got out and somebody did come on our campus, they would want to take those people out."

Johnson said letters would be mailed to parents of students, informing them of the decision to allow selected staff to carry guns on campus.

Additionally, she said signs making the public aware that the district's staff are armed would be going up at the schools next week.

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