Add the Weatherford school to the list of school districts throughout Texas that allow concealed carry of firearms by employees.
The school board, at its Monday (June 11) meeting, voted to implement a "Defender Program," joining over 170 districts across the state in having a concealed carry protection program. The exact date of implementation has yet to be determined as several things have to be decided, such as who qualifies for the program, and when and where training will take place.
The Defender Program, already in place in several other area schools, including other Weatherford-area districts such as Brock,Millsap and Peaster, allows selected school district staff members to carry firearms in order to protect students and staff in the event of an active shooter incident on school property. While Millsap's program was only recently put in place, Weatherford officials have been studying the programs at Brock and Peaster, along with Anna for some time.
"Enhancing safety processes is an issue facing all school districts. While Weatherford ISD schools are safer than they’ve ever been, we know we must continually research additional safety enhancements to maintain a safe, nurturing environment for our students and staff," said Weatherford ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hanks.
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Staff participation in the program is voluntary, and those who volunteer will undergo a thorough screening process that will include a psychological review, fingerprinting, background and administrative approval.
Participation will also involve an extensive training component and annual training requirement. Those participating will remain anonymous.
Also, those participation must provide their own handgun. The Weatherford ISD will provide ammunition.
Similar discussions have been a main agenda topic at schools nationwide following numerous mass shootings that have taken place, highlighted by the tragedy that took the lives of 17 students at Mary Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In addition to the concealed carry feature of the Defender Program, this adoption also provides:
*Classroom safes that will contain a safety vest, pepper spray, and a trauma kit.
*Trauma and intruder training for all staff.
*One board certified behavorial analyst, two intervention counselors, and intervention teacher to support students' social and emotional needs as a preventative measure.
*A school safety coordinator who will be specifically focused on safety plans and processes for the district.
*Training for students, including safety drills and "see something, say something" training on a situational awareness.
*The implementation of a district-wide character education program.
"The WISD school board is committed to providing the safest environment possible for our students and staff," said WISD Board President Mike Guest, whose board has spent the past year gathering information and input, including thoughts from the community with surveys and two town hall forums.
"This decision to approve a concealed carry program in Weatherford ISD was not taken lightly by school board members."
Other items that have been discussed by the WISD Board and suggested by the public include:
*Implementing a student ID program.
*Bus tags for students who travel to and from school on WISD buses.
*Adding additional school resource officers.
*Installing metal detectors at campuses/departments.
All campuses in the Weatherford ISD have secured entrances, thanks to a 2015 bond package. The bond also provided other safety enhancements to campuses, including the installation of additional security cameras, perimeter keyless entries, classroom intruder function door hardware, and additional parking lot lighting.
In addition, all staff have been directed to keep all classroom doors locked as an added safety measure.
The Defender Program does not, however, allow any citizen with a license to carry the right to bring a concealed weapon on WISD property.