JONESBORO — Although Jonesboro Independent School District’s program allowing certain school faculty to carry firearms on campus is still in the early training stage, it has already drawn wide support from the local community who contend the benefits of the program outweigh its costs.
The district’s Guardian Angel Program authorizes select staff members, who have obtained a concealed handgun license, to carry concealed handguns on school property beginning next school year. Officials of the rural school district in north Coryell County said the program will help in case of emergencies and allows school employees to defend the campus, if needed.
Jonesboro ISD Superintendent Matt Dossey said the only immediate district cost is for training purposes, with an estimated cost of $4,000. He said that’s a lot less than compensating full-time law enforcement security for the campus.
All district employees will receive some training in such areas as crisis intervention, emergency management and training for hostage situations. Employees who are authorized to possess firearms on the property also will receive additional training on and off campus.
Dossey said the school board has discussed a possible stipend for staff who do the full training.
While there has been discussion in the Texas Legislature about the Department of Public Safety training security officers for public schools, Jonesboro’s training is done through contracted weapons and safety experts. However, Dossey said the district would “cautiously” consider participating in a DPS program if it were started.
Even so, Dossey said he would personally be opposed to any state system that would mandate the hiring of full-time on-campus security.
“For us to add a $40,000 salary, we’d have to cut other faculty,” he said.
“There will always be some ongoing training,” but certain training, such as for hostage situations, will not be required yearly, Dossey said. Additional training also will be necessary in the future when staff changes occur.
The program will eventually require additional costs connected to the purchasing of approved firearms and ammunition, but Dossey said these costs will be minimized through a partnership with a firearms and ammunition dealers to purchase items at the manufacturer’s cost.
Jonesboro science teacher Dallas Isom said he has heard good feedback on the program.
“Nobody has spoken out saying, ‘That’s a waste of money,’” Isom said. “I’ve got a vested interest in it. I’m there, and my children are there. It’s worth the cost.”