The meeting opened with a prayer.
“Help us make decisions that are in the best interest of our children,” said Cleburne ISD school board President Brent Easdon. Though the CISD boardroom was packed and trustees open to public discussion, only one attendee spoke his thoughts about the meeting’s hot-button agenda item: the possibility of selected staff carrying concealed guns on campuses.
Former CISD student Brad Stevens, a teacher at Hill College, told trustees he would be in favor of such a policy.
“The protection of our students is at the top of our list,” he said. “Even this morning, there was another shooting outside of Houston.” Stevens said he knew the topic was controversial, but it was due time to start talking.
“It’s time ... to make the bad guys leave us alone,” he said. “We have signs on our doors ... but bad guys don’t listen to what’s on the doors. They don’t pay attention to what the legislature says and they don’t care what we think. The purpose of the teacher is to educate and secondarily to keep their students safe and to protect them.”
Superintendent Tim Miller said there are several Cleburne police officers stationed at campuses at various times.
“We do have five armed personnel in the district right now,” he said. “Three from the city police department; school resource officers. Two deputies from the sheriff’s department that are currently officed at several of our schools.”
He said Cleburne patrol officers would be spending more time at campuses, to learn the layout of buildings and speak with students and staff. The presence of officers, he said, should be obvious to those driving by schools.
“It’s unfortunate that this is the time we live in,” said Easdon, turning the discussion to placing guns in teachers’ hands.
“Nobody anticipated 9-11 happening with Americans being murdered in the workplace,” said Trustee Stu Madison. “Nobody anticipated Columbine ... Nobody before December anticipated that our children would be murdered at school. If you don’t take corrective action, you’re only doomed to repeat it. We have to protect our children and employees.
“What I find unacceptable is the notion we need to move on and assume it will not happen again. It has already happened once. We need to be vigilant ...”
Trustee Jay Wilson said he was not comfortable with the idea of teachers carrying weapons to school.
“I may be in the minority here, but I think it is 100 times more likely that the weapon would hurt an innocent person,” he said. “It just takes one [person] to not handle that correctly.”
Madison, who said recently he was in favor staff carrying concealed handguns, added that the district should research the possibility of hiring up to eight off-duty police officers for the elementary schools at $30 an hour for a cost of about $30,000 a month.
“I am concerned that all our elementary schools do not have SROs on those campuses,” he said. “It disturbs me greatly. We should at least investigate off-duty police officers.”
Trustees Teddy Martyniuk and Wendell Dempsey said they knew something needed to be done in the way of security, but didn’t believe arming teachers was the answer.
Miller said most of the feedback thus far was not in favor of arming teachers.
“When I took [my kids] to school today, I felt just fine taking them to school,” said Trustee DeWayne Burns. “We have to ask ourselves whether the risk of a threat outweighs the risk of an accident happening, like Mr. Wilson was saying, and somebody being possibly injured or worse. We need to take time and do our due diligence.”
In closing, Easdon urged those in attendance and board members to research both sides of the argument. Miller said teachers, parents and other staff members would have plenty of time to relay their thoughts via meetings, questionnaires and polls. Trustees took no action pending further discussion.
Teachers at the meeting said they were split on the idea.
“I think law enforcement should be packing guns and not teachers,” said Phoenix School Principal Richard Mitchell. “Teachers should be educating students and following the procedures to keep them safe.”
Cleburne High School Choir Director Weslee Vance said he was sure plenty of people would be comfortable carrying concealed guns, but declined to say how he personally felt.
“I think it’s an added level of paranoia,” he admitted.
In other business, trustees discussed some of the more immediate security needs including security camera installation at a cost of up to $100,000.
“We’ve talked about cameras for years, but the budget restrains us,” said Trustee MJ Larrison. “Our first priority should be the education of our children. If we have to cut into other budgets [to pay for cameras] ... I don’t want it to be teachers or staff.
“The teachers need to be able to teach and not worry about the safety in the classroom.”
“We need to have at least one camera at all school entrances,” he said.
Directing campus visitors to front offices through secure entrances is also a priority, trustees said.
CISD Senior Director for District Operations Barry Hipp said it would take about 60 days to install secured doors at school entrances.
Easdon said he was in favor of such entrances but said he had specific concerns about the doors’ material, as the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School was able to shoot through glass security doors.