A national debate rages in the aftermath of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., about how to improve school safety, but several Galveston County educators say the answer doesn’t lie in arming teachers.

“At this time, the administration and board are not closing the door to any possible safety measure if it is in the best interest of our students,” said Rodney Cavness, the superintendent of Texas City Independent School District. “However, we don’t feel that arming teachers would be the best solution because of additional problems that it could cause.”

Cavness isn’t alone. Representatives for Galveston and Clear Creek school districts also voiced concern about a proposal to arm teachers that has gained steam in the weeks following the Parkland shooting.

“I do not believe that arming teachers positions us closer to our primary role,” Galveston Superintendent Kelli Moulton said. “Galveston ISD maintains its own police force to address the safety of students and staff.”

After Nikolas Cruz, 19, shot and killed 17 students and teachers on Valentine’s Day at his former high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, parents, politicians and community members across the country have weighed in on how to reduce school mass shootings.

President Donald Trump in the days following the shooting touted the possibility of arming teachers and said that armed teachers should receive a bonus to incentivize the move.

Trump said he would consider using federal money to train the teachers and called for hardening schools against attacks.

As Trump and other politicians weigh legislative solutions, survivors of the Parkland shooting have brought the issue to a national audience through advocacy on TV stations and other areas.


There might not be a magic bullet when it comes to school safety, but a combination of measures can have a big effect, Clear Creek Independent School District Superintendent Greg Smith said.

“A multi-pronged approach is needed,” Smith said. “You need mental health support on campuses and safety features on the perimeter as well as internally. There’s a lot we can be doing.”

Several district officials pointed to recent security changes as evidence they are already addressing the issue of student safety.

As part of a $487 million bond issue Clear Creek voters approved in May 2017, district officials set aside $8.1 million to upgrade security systems, including installing new security cameras.

“Safe schools are not necessarily just a single event,” Smith said. “Safe schools are something we’ve approached with the last two bond elections.”

A $31 million May bond referendum Galveston voters will vote on includes $2.95 million for districtwide security upgrades and LED lighting upgrades.

Those security upgrades include creating security vestibules at 13 campuses and replacing many of the district’s outdated security cameras.


While several district officials said arming teachers wasn’t a good idea, they also pointed out that Texas law already allows for some teachers to carry weapons.

A Texas statute known as the Guardian Plan allows licensed and certified school districts’ employees to carry concealed handguns on campus as a precautionary measure.

“I understand why you have a plan like that for teachers in rural areas, but one of the first people trained under the statute had to go out on workman’s comp because they shot themselves in the foot during a training session,” Smith said.

Former High Island Superintendent D’Ann Vonderau was licensed under the plan and made headlines in May 2017 when she left her pistol in a district-owned vehicle and it was later found by students.

Trustees later removed Vonderau from her position.

High Island district officials Friday said they were open to the possibility of arming teachers.

“I will say that we are a very rural district,” Superintendent Travis Grubbs said. “We are taking any and all precautions to ensure student safety. Yes, arming trained personnel is an option as well as other products on the market that help protect our students. Safety is our No. 1 priority here.”


Following the Parkland shooting, Galveston school district police Chief LeeRoy Amador discussed safety procedures at a school board meeting, highlighting security measures.

A policy committee also is working at Clear Creek Independent School District to create suggestions to improve school safety to be presented to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Smith said.

“They are all features the governor might want to consider funding, as opposed to being on the local backs,” Smith said.

Several local educators said it was important to work with law enforcement to ensure safety.

“It would be preferable to increase the presence of armed officers who have been highly trained to deal with situations that might require the use of a weapon,” Cavness said.

Smith agreed, saying that arming teachers would complicate matters for law enforcement officers responding to a dangerous situation.

“If there’s an active shooter situation, and you have a teacher with a weapon and an active shooter team coming into the premises, that teacher having a gun might not have a good ending,” Smith said.

All education experts agreed the community needed to make joint decisions about what to do to increase school safety.

Successful practice requires good training, practice and great communication, Moulton said.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

(38) comments

Carlos Ponce

The majority of teachers I have talked to think arming teachers is a good idea. Not all would be armed, only a select few who would be vetted and trained.
My high school principal in Galveston County was armed on campus (early 1970s). No problems, no gun mishaps. And the total number of problems and accidental shootings by school personnel in Texas schools is ZERO.

Michelle Aycoth

“If there’s an active shooter situation, and you have a teacher with a weapon and an active shooter team coming into the premises, that teacher having a gun might not have a good ending,” Smith said.
Most likely a school shooting incident would not happen because armed teachers would be a huge deterrent.
Andy Aycoth

Robert Braeking

Security cameras, Mental health evaluations, lighting upgrades etc. etc will do nothing to protect the lives of students. The focus should be on fostering the PERCEPTION within the public that schools are not vulnerable. Mount a fingerprint gun safe on every teacher's desk and let the public guess which contains a weapon and which is empty. Take a note of the policy of the Argyle ISD in Argyle, TX which replaced the 'gun free zone' signs with one that reads: “Please be aware that the staff at Argyle ISD are armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students,"

Mark Welch

I don't think "arming the teachers" is really what's being proposed. I believe it's more like allowing the teachers to carry a gun assuming they have the necessary training. I do think that 'gun free zones' provides an environment that allows this type of things to happen. Spending more tax payers money to have armed security isn't the solution for most of our local schools; it didn't help in Florida and the additional costs for an already uncontrolled costs of educating our children needs to be addressed.

Carlos Ponce

"Spending more tax payers money to have armed security isn't the solution for most of our local schools; it didn't help in Florida..."
When the armed security is unwilling to his job there's a problem. Scot Peterson never entered the building once the shooting started. "What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of building 12, take up a position," according to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. "And he never went in." Israel told reporters Peterson should have "[w]ent in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer." Instead, the deputy waited outside for about four minutes.

Jim Forsythe

A teacher with a gun should be the last line of defense at our schools.
First we should be know the threats. We have done a good job of preventing most of the people that have wanted to kill, but some still slip past .
Second, harden the school to prevent people that should not be in schools from gaining entrance.
If we do the first two parts correctly, the last part may never be used;

The last part, Teachers with guns.
HARROLD, Texas allows teachers to carry.
Those participating in the program must hold concealed-carry licenses and are approved by the school board to carry on campus. Less than 50% of teacher that said they wanted to carry, were able to qualify
Ray Dunn, is a tactical trainer for teachers that want to carry guns at Harrold school's
It's a training tool Dunn uses to create lethally skilled shooters. Dunn’s class isn’t for hunters or law enforcement. The exercises he teaches are to train educators in how to kill."If you have to shoot where there's a crowd of people, and in school there is a crowd of kids, you’d better be accurate,"

Carlos Ponce

"A teacher with a gun should be the last line of defense at our schools."
The mere PRESENCE of a possibly armed staff member will deter most from killing in a SOFT target zone. Truth told it could be ANY faculty member. Students would never know unless there is an attack. It could be construction trades teacher Mr. Montgomery, former US Marine. It could be science teacher Mr. Lauf, retired Air Force Colonel. It could be school librarian Mrs. James who took gun marksmanship while in college. It could be Coach Paris. She was a US Marine. (Names mentioned are ex-Hitchcock High School teachers, some now deceased, but you get the picture.)

Jim Forsythe

When you make the teachers the only line of defense, and they fail, then what?
Instead , ID who may cause trouble if at all possible before they act. Which has been happening in this area.
Harden the school to make it next to impossible to enter, unless you belong at that school.
The entry way must be upgraded at most schools and most have more than one entry.
Have guards that stay at the entry's and have no other duty's.To assists them, install double doors with air locks ,install hurricane glass or some other material on all windows, metal doors on all classrooms, facial recognition, metal detectors , improved camera systems,dogs or other means.
Most schools will not install all of these measures, but even a few, would make a big difference.
Guns are not the only threats that schools have to deal with, and to rely on teachers to be trained and handle all the threats ,is asking them to become experts for many potential bad things.
If all this fails, then and only then, would teacher come into play as the last line of defense.

Carlos Ponce

What you propose is good but opposed by the ACLU and Liberal minded attorneys and judges. I suggest you view an old "Night Court" episode called "My Life as a Dog Lawyer"
but substitute the dogs on trial with bad students, John Larroquette for the teachers and administrators and the ACLU for the defense attorney. The Liberal judge remains as is. If you think this is a bit of a stretch just look at Nikolas Cruz' defense attorney.

Jim Forsythe

What point are you trying to make. That a lawyer defends their client. Is it that his lawyer said “He is deeply troubled and emotionally he has gone through a lot in a short period of time with the loss of this mother,” . “This young man is deeply disturbed.” which he is , as anyone that shoots up a school is.
The State has said they will seek death, for Cruz. What else are you looking for, as he can put to death one time. You are concerned that ACLU will do what?
If a lawyer is in favor of a judge, they do not try to have them removed. .Past experience may be why this happened.
Lawyers for the man accused of killing 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School asked the judge overseeing his murder case to step aside late Friday, arguing that she has already shown too much favoritism toward prosecutors. Defense motion was filed Friday were unsuccessful.

Carlos Ponce

"What point are you trying to make."
I believe I've already made it.

Jim Forsythe

"What point are you trying to make."
"I believe I've already made it."
No , you tried to us a tv program , and you are not clear as of your point. I would not have asked , if it was clear.

Carlos Ponce

I believe I've already made it. The idea you don't get it is believable since it would be keeping in character.

Jose' Boix

Fast words; difficult process - in my view. Just think about the process to have an effective "arming of teachers." Carry-in or storage, who pays for the "tool and ammo," what type of "tools" would be the standard - or just any "weapon," who and how anyone of the "armed individuals" take part of an attack - would that person leave the classroom, for instance, etc., etc., etc. Fast words, difficult process!

Carlos Ponce

Other schools in Texas have dealt with the process. What value does one put on a student's life?

Jose' Boix

Mr. Ponce, "a student's life" is not the point at all! We are all just great idea creators and innovators and often missed the complexities of the process, which in this case - to me - would quite a bit of thinking, developing and implementing. However, I am for not wanting to "reinvent the wheel," so let find out what is out there that works effectively, so that we do not lose another student's life! That is my point!

Carlos Ponce

" I am for not wanting to 'reinvent the wheel,' so let find out what is out there that works effectively."
Okay, the schools that have armed teachers have reported a grand total of ZERO incidences. To me that is effective.

Lisa Lohmann

Isn't this debate really over? HB1009 The Protection of Texas Children Act passed by the 83rd Legislature created the School Marshall program. Arming teachers and faculty actually began in 2007 with the Texas Guardian Plan. Just like pilots in the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, teachers have had the legal ability to carry for 10 years. Just a couple of examples of common sense prevailing over politics.

Jim Forsythe

The debate may be over for the state of Texas, but each ISD will have to decide what it's policies are going to be.
This statement sums it up "While several district officials said arming teachers wasn’t a good idea, they also pointed out that Texas law already allows for some teachers to carry weapons."
It is a national debate, as only nine states allow teacher to carry.

David Doe

My wife is a retired teacher. She doesn't want teachers to be the be-all end all when it comes to guns in school. She has her (CHL now LTC) and would not hesitate to use it if needed. She would be the 1st to tell you that teachers are under paid. I never agreed that teachers were under paid until I married one. She graduated SMU, majored in psychology and has her Masters in teaching. She is well qualified. I believe many are not. (another story for another day) Having this debate is good. Each side not wanting to compromise and come to an agreement for our children is problem. It's also obvious that all of these mads shooting perps had issues at home.

Carlos Ponce

"She would be the 1st to tell you that teachers are under paid." This will give he gun ready teachers an additional stipend. (More Money).

Carlos Ponce

What's the alternative to having a teacher at the ready to take down an active shooter on campus? HAVING THAT TEACHER AND STUDENTS SHOT!

Jim Forsythe

A teacher with a gun should be the last line of defense at our schools.
First we should be know the threats. We have done a good job of preventing most of the people that have wanted to kill, but some still slip past .
Second, harden the school to prevent people that should not be in schools from gaining entrance.
If we do the first two parts correctly, the last part may never be used;

Carlos Ponce

If the assailant knew there was armed personnel on campus they would never attack. Take away SOFT TARGETS.

Jim Forsythe

Have guards that stay at the entry's and have no other duty's.

Carlos Ponce

"Have guards that stay at the entry's and have no other duty's."
Inefficient use of police power. Do you know how many doorways there are to a school? Fire marshalls require multiple exits, entrances. The 1964 Hitchcock High school had five doorways in the main building, three in the one story building, 4 in the old gym, 6 in the Mooney gym. Its replacement has 11. I haven't counted those in the current high school but I'm sure it is also high. "Have guards that stay at the entry's and have no other duty's." I'm glad you're a taxpayer in that district and not me.

Jim Forsythe

"We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents.
…Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly helpless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!
…They’re our kids. They’re our responsibility. And it’s not just our duty to protect them — it’s our right to protect them.
What if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?
Will you at least admit the possibility that 26 innocent lives might have been spared? Is that so abhorrent to you that you would rather continue to risk the alternative?
…How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame?"
If you are for the NRA, you should be in favor of the above. This is the NRA's official stance, on school protection. They are calling for armed security…and teacher training." as seen below.
"The NRA is going to bring all of its knowledge, dedication and resources to develop a model National School Shield Emergency Response Program for every school that wants this. [This will include] armed security…and teacher training."

Carlos Ponce

Rest assured, Jim than when your son were at Hitchcock High, i protected them.[beam]

Jim Forsythe

Even if you had a gun , how were you going to protect all the students at the High school. If a Sandy Hook Elementary School type of event had happened in Hitchcock , would the outcome have been any different.
Today at Huffman High School in Birmingham, a shooting happened that killed one student and injured two others, authorities said. They think it my have been a accident, but a gun was at school and the results was bad.
The goal should be not to allow any gun to get inside a school or in the parking lot.

Carlos Ponce

Leaving teachers unarmed leaves few options when the shooter cannot be talked down. In 1993 there was a shooter at Hitchcock High School. Coach John Glover took the rat shot to his face fired by the assailant. The .22 rat shot scattered and also hit the student the shooter intended to hit. The shooting took place outside the LW Hughes gym where the students loaded onto buses to take them home. Coach Glover was the teacher on bus duty.

Jim Forsythe

The number of exits- entrance can be reduced, by making most emergency exits only
Reduce the number of entrances to get into the school. Safety professionals can be used to help determine the best use of the buildings, and the number of entrances and exits required.
Or we can have teacher as the only line of defense, that spend most of their time in the classroom and when someone that wants to do bad enters, they will be confronted inside the school perhaps in a classroom. They may or may not be using a gun for the bad things they want to do.
The goal should be not to let them into the school.

Carlos Ponce

Jim, each portal is under video surveillance.

Jim Forsythe

That's great, the Cameras are Physically going to stop someone.
Unless more than one means of defense is used, and we have failure of that one protection. it will not have a good outcome.
If a camera shows someone is entering a building by walking in or other means, who is going to recognize what is going on?
If they recognize what is going on , they are the going to do what?
Cameras will not keep evil out.

Carlos Ponce

"Cameras are Physically going to stop someone."
If the person monitoring the videos sees entry by an evil doer, he or she can initiate procedures to confine that person(s).

Jim Forsythe

Whom are you going to have monitor the videos? Will that be their only job, if not they may no see them coming.
If they see the bad guy, they most likely will be in the school and entering classrooms , before action can be taken.
" procedures to confine that person(s)" means what?

Carlos Ponce

"Whom are you going to have monitor the videos?"
A computer equipped with photo recognition software. A red flag to the staff if student obscures his face or is unrecognized. Welcome to the 21st Century, Jim!

Jim Forsythe

Facial recognition first was used in 1966. Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf, and Charles Bisson. were the Pioneers of facial recognition.
Among the different biometric techniques, face recognition may not be most reliable and efficient.
If facial recognition if not coupled with skin texture analysis, thermal cameras, FaceIt, a 3D image program or some other program that does the same thing,100% can not be achieved.
Even that may not be enough, as now you can use privacy visor' glasses that uses nearly infrared light to make the face underneath it unrecognizable to face recognition software. The latest version uses a titanium frame, light-reflective material and a mask which uses angles and patterns to disrupt facial recognition technology through both absorbing and bouncing back light sources.
Another method to protect from facial recognition systems are specific haircuts and make-up patterns that prevent the used algorithms to detect a face.
Just one approach is not enough. It must include humans, computers and other things.
Humans must be manning the entries

Mike Trube

Perhaps if the parents re-thought about spanking in school, there wouldn't be any school shootings. Perhaps if the school districts would implement stringer dress codes, teaching students respect for the educational institution, and respect for themselves, kids wouldn't be obsessed with violence. Kids aren't being taught how to behave as human beings. Kids are allowed to run amok. This has to stop. And banning guns is not the solution. Don't take away the rights of adults to appease under age children.


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