HOWARD COUNTY, TX (KWES) - An unknown number of Forsan Independent School District employees are now authorized to carry concealed handguns on campus following a change to the district's weapons policy, administrators said.
The state-licensed, school board-approved staff members were dubbed "The Guardians" and have not been identified for safety reasons.
Administrators indicated each school has "more than one guardian," but declined to reveal how many employees are currently armed. The revised weapons policy does not give students or parents permission to carry firearms.
The district released the following list of eight requirements each guardian must meet:
1. Must be a hand-selected staff member.
2. Must have state-issued Concealed Handgun License (CHL)
3. Must pass the same psychological exams as local law enforcement personnel.
4. Must qualify annually to use the specific handgun carried on campus.
5. Must complete joint training with Howard County Sheriff's deputies.
6. Must submit to and pass random drug tests.
7. Must be trained in school safety tactics, including strategies for denying intruders entry into a classroom or other campus facility.
8. Must be approved by Forsan ISD board members.
The push to approve campus concealed carry began more than two years ago, according to Superintendent Randy Johnson, and was prompted by increased attacks on schools across the nation, in addition to Forsan's proximity to local law enforcement.
"Our unique situation is that we are about 15 miles south of Big Spring," he explained. "We live in the county where the sheriff's deputies can be spread over a pretty wide area, so response times can be long."
Officials could not provide an estimate for the average response time for 911 calls placed from Forsan public schools, all located at 6th Street and Avenue H.
Every additional minute could make a "significant difference" in the event of a campus emergency, Johnson said.
He added that "no specific incident or threat" had prompted the move to allow guns on campus.
"We know it's a controversial idea and concept, but we want to make sure that our folks know it's been thought out for a long time and approved months ago," Johnson told NewsWest 9. "It wasn't a knee-jerk reaction to a threat."
Signs reading "Attention: Please be aware that the staff of Forsan ISD may be armed and will use whatever force is necessary to protect our students" were posted in front of schools this month when the policy change was enacted.
Johnson emphasized the warnings are not meant as a "macho, chest-bumping brag," but were posted in an attempt to dissuade would-be attackers from targeting students.
The randomly selected Forsan and Big Spring residents NewsWest 9 spoke with all praised the school district for allowing authorized staff to arm themselves.
"All schools around here should do the same thing," one woman said. "I'm trying to get my kids into Forsan now."
NewsWest 9's Facebook post about the district's new policy generated more than 1,000 likes in under 24 hours. The hundreds of comments published by viewers were primarily supportive of guns on campus.
However, one viewer wrote, "This is ridiculous! Teachers and staff are human too! They can just "snap" at any moment..."
Another follower commented, "There [are] pros and cons... Either people will think twice before attempting [to harm students] or there will be people [who] will take this as an invite [to target Forsan schools]..."
According to the superintendent, community members he had heard from were "very appreciative" of the new security measures.
"[Forsan] is a safe community," he said. "We want to make sure it stays that way."