A select few of Palmer ISD employees will begin carrying concealed handguns on the district's campuses next year.
The school board voted unanimously at its meeting last week after hearing from a crowd of residents in favor of the policy. About 65 residents attended the meeting and about 25 spoke in favor of arming educators with handguns in an effort to increase student safety. Only two residents expressed concern and objected to the decision.
Superintendent Kevin Noack said residents suggested the board consider the handgun policy and the district researched the issue.
“We've had some people after the Newtown incident come to meetings and ask our board to look into this,” Noack said. “The board directed district staff and we researched the subject.”
After district staff presented their findings to the board, a public meeting was held and the board received feedback before making its decision.
Noack said a week later the district is still in its planning stages and most likely will not release much more information about its guidelines and plans.
“Not much of that (information) would be made public,” he said. “Even the people who carry concealed handguns will be confidential.”
He did say that a small group of staff members as few as one or up to four per campus would undergo extensive training, psychological reviews, tactical training and spend hours training at a gun range before receiving final approval.
“The district will be working closely with the chief of police, who may provide training and insight,” Noack said.
Some residents preferred other means of increasing security throughout the district, but Noack said the deciding factor was lack of finances. It is much cheaper for the district to allow staff to carry concealed handguns than to implement other similar measures, such as hiring Strategic Resource Officers – police officers stationed at campuses to patrol and step up security.
“It would probably cost the district $180,000 to put an SRO on every campus,” Noack said, noting that this is a rough estimate.
He couldn't comment on the cost of testing and training staff to carry concealed handguns, but said it would be “minimal” compared to other options.
In response to those parents who are concerned about staff carry handguns onto the campus, Noack said to trust the district staff.
“They have to trust us that we will do what's right,” he said. “We've had quite a few people call and email us after the last meeting, thanking us for putting this policy into place.”
Noack said that other than the staff carrying concealed weapons, only the police department and highest administration will know which employees are armed.