When it comes to student safety and security, Big Spring Independent School District officials say very few options are off the table.
Student safety, which has become the main topic of discussion for school officials everywhere since last month's killing of 20 elementary students in Newtown, Conn., was addressed during Thursday's BSISD trustee meeting, and officials said they are willing to consider just about any viable method — including arming teachers — to achieve that goal.
The discussion included an address to the board by BSISD Technology Director Corey Wood, whose children attend school locally, advocating for allowing teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons on campus.
Wood said the current policy of making schools gun-free zones has only served to make students easier targets for persons intent on causing harm.
“For years, public schools have cultivated a deadly illusion that a gun-free policy makes us safer,” Wood said. “The mass shootings we've seen in recent years only prove killers don't play by the rules. Today, I'm calling on you to change those rules.”
Wood urged local officials to follow the lead of two other Texas school districts — Harold ISD and Union Grove ISD — which have approved plans to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons.
“As more and more schools choose to enact such a policy, those who don't will become the minority and a proverbial target will be placed on those schools,” he said. “You might as well put a sign outside that reads, 'Criminals welcome; there are no guns in this school.'
“You have to ask yourself, what sort of message do you want to send to criminals?” he added. “How far are you willing to go to protect the students at Big Spring ISD? How far would you be willing to go at home? What's the difference?”
School officials stopped short of endorsing Wood's comments, but agreed the idea of arming teachers is just one of many the district will have to consider as it fine-tunes its safety procedures.
“I think the comments Corey made are the kind of things that are on people's minds these days,” BSISD Superintendent Steven Saldivar said. “We all want our children to be safe. As teachers and administrators, our worst nightmare would be that these things which are happening more and more at other places might happen here.”
Saldivar also stressed that arming teachers is a step the district would not take lightly.
“Keep in mind, when you're carrying a gun, that's a lot of responsibility,” he said. “It's one thing to say teachers should carrying guns … it's another when you have 25 kindergartners in your classroom, or you have 1,000 high school students walking the halls of your school.”
Saldivar said the district has taken several steps in the recent past to upgrade its security.
At the new elementary schools and the refurbished junior high, all exterior doors except the main entrance are locked once the school day begins and all visitors are funneled through the main office before being allowed into classroom areas.
The situation is more problematic at the high school, which is the largest campus and has more students coming and going at various times. There, however, the district employs an armed “resource officer” and is looking to hire another, Saldivar said.
BSISD also works closely with local law enforcement in conducting safety drills and reviewing procedures, he added.
School Board Member Tony Kennedy said possible security improvements will continue to be addressed in the future.
“There are more options out there,” Kennedy said. “We're not against arming teachers, but we need to discuss that possibility — a lot. We are going to make an informed decision … and make it with a good thought process in mind. I agree we need to do something. We just need to decide what's right for Big Spring ISD.”