Armed Employees now at Fayetteville ISD

In front of the school campus at Fayetteville ISD is a sign that celebrates a championship in baseball.

But soon, different signs will also be posted along the roadway.

They warn that staff members may be armed with guns. The new safety policy has put this district, with less than 300 students, into the larger national debate on school safety. 

Superintendent Jeff Harvey declined to say how many staff members volunteered and then were cleared for their School Guardian Program. He did say the decision to launch the program was made last year by district board members. The decision was a matter of necessity, considering the school is in a small town. It’s located a few miles off Hwy 71, where La Grange and Columbus are considered the big cities. 

"Fayetteville actually has no police force, we rely on the county sheriff. hey do a great job, and we are appreciative of everything they do, and we work with them very closely, but this is something we felt like it was another added security measure for our kiddos, and that's why we took this option,” said Harvey.

Superintendent Harvey recently sent a notification letter to students and parents explaining the new safety policy.

Those selected have to have a gun license. Pass psychological exams and drug test. Qualify annually with the gun they carry. Complete training on intruder tactics and gain board approval.

"I think anyone we have here on staff that’s willing to do that we trust them completely, said Harvey who added he has absolute confidence in his Guardians.

Trust is also a big point for Margaret Alford and her husband. They're children graduated from Fayetteville ISD. While the school hasn't changed much since then they understand the new policy represents a changed world.

“As long as they really know what they are doing. And have good judgment,” said Margaret Alford.

Fayetteville ISD is not alone in launching this program. State officials say in Texas there are almost 200 districts with a school guardian or school Marshall program."

The exact number and locations of districts with armed staff members is kept secret by state law. Harrold ISD, in northwest Texas - was one of the first to go public with the guardian program. When I visited the campus in 2013- school officials responded to criticism from gun control advocates.

"So of the arguments I've heard, that now teachers are going to have guns are going to shoot the kids, that's a ludicrous asinine argument,” said Harrold ISD Superintendent David Thweatt
What happened in Harrold ISD, a decade ago, started a statewide discussion. Now, Superintendent Harvey is the one getting the phone calls and questions.

"Every school district is different, we've done what we believe is in the best interest of Fayetteville community, Fayetteville ISD this is what works for us, I'd reach out to anyone that wants to know I would say you have to do whats best for your community, this does not work in every community it works in ours,” said Harvey.

Superintendent Harvey believes his campus will no longer be an easy target. But he is also quick to make one last point; except for his  Guardians, the campus in Fayetteville will remain a Gun Free Zone.

There are those, like the Texas American Federation of Teachers, who are against the Guardian and Marshal Program. Texas AFT Communications Director Rob D’Amico sent FOX 7 the following statement.

“Texas AFT does not support arming teachers. A strategy for safety should instead focus on providing more resources to address mental health needs of students and the public at large, training to recognize potential threats, and closing loopholes in our gun laws that allow for easy access to handguns and assault-style rifles for those who shouldn't have them. Additionally, we fully support the use of police and school resource officers for providing a secure environment if necessary.
Teachers need to be free to concentrate on teaching and are not in a position to provide an armed response that is clearly outside the scope of their profession. While the Texas programs already in existence seem to provide a limited presence of armed educators now in our state, putting guns in schools is fraught with peril. Guns could fall into the hands of students, teachers could be mistaken for shooters, or an improperly trained educator could end up wounding or killing students. Even more problematic is the Trump administrations call for widespread arming of teachers as a foundation for a solution to school shootings,” stated D’Amico.

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