North Texas teachers offered training on using guns

Posted Sunday, Mar. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Concealed handgun license class

For information or to register for the class, go to www.chriskyleacademy.com. The class is limited to 1,000 people and is open to any public or private school teachers and employees. The only cost for the class is a box of ammo that you provide and a $10 range fee due at registration.

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Married to a hunter, Shay Stavenhagen has access to guns but little idea how to use them.

Stavenhagen, a fourth-grade teacher at Beckham Elementary School in Arlington, has pondered taking a concealed handgun license class for about a year but was always deterred by the typical $150 cost.

"I've grown up around guns and my husband hunts so I felt like I needed to be educated about the weapons that are in my house," she said.

So when Stavenhagen learned that a free concealed handgun license class was being offered April 6 to educators from around the area, she quickly signed up and got her mother, retired Arlington Principal Jan Durham, to do the same.

"I don't know that I will carry," said Stavenhagen, 32. "I just want to go and get to know a gun better. At this point, I'm not comfortable enough to carry a gun because I don't know how to work a gun. I feel like I need to go and get educated."

The class, called "the largest CHL class ever held," is the brainchild of Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL sniper killed last month, and Dalworthington Gardens Police Chief Bill Waybourn. The two had been planning the event before the fatal shooting of Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a Glen Rose gun range Feb. 2.

Waybourn, a concealed handgun instructor since 1996, said that though he considered canceling the class after Kyle's death, he is convinced Kyle would have wanted it to go forward.

He said Kyle had a great respect for educators and wanted to give back to those who care for our children.

"He truly had a servant's heart," Waybourn said. "In signing books, he would say, 'It's our duty to serve those who serve us.'"

The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were largely the inspiration for offering the free course to educators, Waybourn said. In the December shootings in Newton, Conn., a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults before taking his own life.

"Since Sandy Hook, I've had a lot of teachers call me concerned about protection and different situations," Waybourn said.

Since the Connecticut shooting, arming educators in schools has become a hot-button topic.

Texas law allows individual school districts to decide whether to let licensed employees carry guns on campus.

Only a couple of rural districts permit it, though other districts have considered changing their policies.

Waybourn said he's not worried about any controversy that may come with offering a free concealed handgun class to educators.

"I'm the guy that started blood draws in Texas on DWIs and that was kind of controversial so we're used to that," he quipped.

He says the class is not intended as an agenda-pusher for having armed teachers in schools.

"I look at it as an educational process. There's going to be people who throw rocks at it. ... There'll be others who think we ought to storm the school and have a gun in every classroom," Waybourn said. "I'm not in one of those boats. I'm just the educator."

The classroom instruction part of the class will be held in the Kennedale High School's Performing Arts Center. Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle; and his brother, Jeff Kyle, will be among those attending the event to speak briefly to participants.

Waybourn said range shooting will be spread over several days.

Kennedale district spokeswoman Erin Hyden said the district agreed to allow use of the building but is not sponsoring the event. She echoed the website's description of the event as not an attempt to persuade school administrations to form weapons policies, but rather "to present the facts and bring better education and personal confidence to an issue that is often misrepresented."

"Kennedale ISD is not considering allowing faculty to carry on campus," Hyden said.

Durham, who worked 40 years in education before retiring as principal at Thornton Elementary in 2007, is among those who don't believe guns belong in schools.

"I just think there's too many ways to make a building secure," she said.

But Durham, 64, said she sees taking the gun class as simply a way of educating herself.

"Not that I'm going to carry a gun all the time, or maybe ever, but at least I would know how, I would know the laws and I would know what I'm supposed to do and not do," Durham said. " ... You've got to be smart about the decisions you make and be educated. We're always learning. That has always been my motto."

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

Twitter: @deannaboyd

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