Officials with the Panola Charter Schools system have begun looking into whether or not the district should arm its staff members in the interest of student safety.
“I need the input in terms of how you feel instinctively,” Superintendent Bob Browning said. “It’s certainly is occurring, Carthage High School, for example,” Browning said. “We’ve got people who have been trained in that, and I have no opposition to it. If I were dealing independently with just me, yeah I probably would, because it’s one more safety factor, and I’m not scared of trained people mis-using that responsibility.”
Board members for Panola Charter Schools, which operates Panola Early College High School and Panola Charter High School in Carthage and Texas Early College High School in Marshall, discussed the training and arming of staff during a Monday meeting.
Ultimately, the board decided to start working on some more ideas and proposals and continue the discussion at a later meeting.
Charles Worley, board vice president, talked about the Guardian Program, a training program specifically for those who work in schools that goes beyond the training for concealed hand gun carry. He used Carthage ISD as a reference, mentioning how their faculty who wished to could apply for the Guardian Program. There is, however, a significant expense.
“I think it’s about $750 a person for training,” Worley said. “Carthage gives the people who are in the Guardian Program, I think, $300-500 to purchase a weapon after they’ve gone through the program, and then they pay for training. They pay for their ammunition so that they can continue to keep their comfort level I guess and expertise level up.”
Principal Keith Koonce mentioned a program he looked into two years ago that may be an alternative to arming school faculty.
“They were gonna get two officers to work on their off time, vary their days, they were gonna come in on or about break and stay an hour on or to about 10 o’clock and then come back, and we would pay them — I think they make like $30 an hour... there were two of them, so that was $60 and do it for a couple of hours,” Koonce said. “But just a couple of days where we could get that presence of them being there when the kids were out, and they could make those personal relationships with some of those kids.”
Carlton Shamburger, board president, emphasized the importance of having a plan and a structure if they move forward with introducing guns onto campus.
“I think if you’re going to put that out there, then you better make sure you have trained the right people before you give them a gun or allow a gun on this campus,” Shamburger said. “...I’m for it, but I think if we do it, we need to have a plan and a structure and not just say ‘hey, give everybody a gun and let’s go.’ ... And anybody having them has to have a psychological background, which you may not have, and you may work with someone for years, but you don’t necessarily know what they’re capable of. ‘Cause that’s one of those things you really wanna know, you don’t know who’s on what medications for what or why, and then suddenly you arm them or give them a gun.”