Town hall meetings were held Monday and Tuesday to discuss the possibility of arming teachers in the Gatesville Independent School District as a measure of preventing and aiding in the event of an active shooter.
Talk of implementing such a safety measure in Gatesville began in 2013, but plans did not move forward at the time.
It is not something district officials ever hoped would need further discussion.
No further dates were set to discuss the plan.
If Gatesville follows through with this initiative, it will not be the first district in the area to arm teachers.
Moody ISD, which is about 35 miles from Killeen, has already made the decision to arm trained staff members on campuses.
Jonesboro ISD, just 16 miles from Gatesville, began training teachers to carry weapons in 2013.
“Moody has a very good police department and they are in our buildings daily as part of our current safety initiatives,” Moody ISD Superintendent Gary Martel said Wednesday. “The concern, like most rural schools, has to do with our first responders working many situations on a daily basis and being unable to respond quick enough to possibly save lives in the event someone chooses to hurt our children and staff.”
According to a March statement from the Texas Association of School Boards, 172 districts across the state had armed teachers.
That number is now 230, a 28.85 percent increase. The majority of the districts that armed teachers prior to this year stated they were motivated by the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut where 26 people were shot and killed.
More recently armed districts have claimed this year’s school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Houston as their reasoning for the decision, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.
Educators in these districts go through specific training in order to be considered, and not everyone who completes the training is chosen to be armed. Those selected are kept anonymous to protect the safety of themselves and the students.
Bruce Kaase, owner of Kaase Concealed Handgun School in Gatesville, said he hopes Gatesville and all area schools arm their teachers. Kaase addressed area districts in 2017, offering his training services.
“The training we provide is the Texas Department of Public Safety’s School Safety Certification Program,” Kaase said. “It was written by the DPS in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies that train school staff to protect their students and fellow staff in active shooter situations.”
The two-day program takes participants through training in multiple areas.
“The course does make the staff safe and does prepare the staff greatly for an active shooter,” Kaase said. “These schools want a first line of defense. They also hope they never have to use the program in a real life shooting but will be prepared if one happens.”
Copperas Cove ISD continues to have a close partnership with the Copperas Cove Police Department and the Texas State Highway Patrol, sharing district information so that officials are able to respond quickly and safely when needed. The district has also assigned school entrances an individual letter and number to allow for quick and focused responses.
Killeen ISD is also making changes to security procedures. Additional district police officers have been hired, security vestibules have been added to campuses, student badge readers are being installed at high school campuses, improvements are being made to school intercom systems and perimeter fencing is being built around schools.