While many people across the country balked at Donald Trump’s suggestion that teachers be rewarded for carrying guns as an answer to school shootings, one school district in North Texas is already testing the idea. The Callisburg Independent School District (CISD) started what they call the “guardian” program four years ago. No teacher has had to use deadly force to protect their students so far, but campus guardians are locked and loaded should the need arise.
The guardian force is a team of volunteers who are licensed and permitted to carry concealed firearms on school grounds. Each member is required to undergo training which includes annual active shooter scenario training along with routine target practice at the local gun ranges. CNN reported that CISD superintendent Steve Clugston is in full support of the program and deems it necessary in light of recent tragic events in Parkland.
“We’ll do whatever’s necessary to protect our kids and staff,” Clugston told CNN. “We don’t want to be at the mercy of somebody that’s intent on doing harm.”
Clugston justifies the program, in part, because of a lack of a local police force in the rural town of Callisburg. It is located around 85 miles north of Dallas with a population of less than 400 people. Citizens have to depend on the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to respond to emergency calls. In the event of an active shooting, the superintendent feels that they are at greater risk due to slower response times.
Trump’s proposal that teachers be paid bonuses for participating in programs like the guardian has been met with much controversy. Referencing the Parkland mass shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students while injuring several more, Trump called school shooters “cowards” and said that teachers would “feel more comfortable having the gun anyway.”
But the head of the American Federation of Teachers adamantly disagrees. According to Randi Weingarten, teachers do not want to police schools. Weingarten said that no matter how much training teachers can undergo, they will be helpless against assault rifles.
“Teachers don’t want to be armed,” Weingarten said according to CNN. “We want to teach. We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”
The Callisburg program is voluntary and apparently several teachers have stepped up to the plate. In front of their schools are signs warning potential intruders that teachers and staff are armed and will stop at nothing to protect the students. Clugston insists that now is the time to take the matter of school safety into their own hands.
“We (are) trying to put our teachers in a position to be better equipped to protect their kids,” Clugston said. “And I have complete faith in our team, that they’re willing to stand up and protect our people.”