MILLSAP – Millsap Independent School District approved a measure to implement a concealed carry program at its monthly board meeting Monday.
The school district had been in discussions about the security measure for the entire school year, and included community members’ feedback over an eight-month period, said MISD superintendent Deann Lee.
The students were one of the first shareholders to be spoken to via a high school student advisory council, Lee said.
The feedback was in depth and crucial, Lee said.
“They were so mature and thoughtful and just gave very good input in how they felt and if it would help add to the safety ... they were really comfortable with that support,” Lee said.
“There’s many of us that wish today’s circumstances didn’t require us to have this conversation, but it does and we have to ensure that at the end of the day we’re doing everything possible that we know of to keep our kids and staff safe,” she said.
Establishing the district’s own police department and adding more school resource officers would be ideal, but the state and local funding aren’t available to cover such a thing, Lee said.
“If we had the funding, we would love to have our own school police department or an SRO on every single campus, but we as a school district by ourselves just don’t have the funding for that,” she said. “You take on the cost of the whole salary, all the benefits, all of the equipment, all of the training and all of that for multiple people, full-time salary, and we just don’t have that kind of funding.”
Lee’s comments echo similar ones made at Weatherford ISD’s recent town hall meetings, where board president Jeff Geyer expressed to the audience the financial difficulties of adding more SROs to every campus.
The funding is available for WISD, but not without cuts to other programs, Geyer said at the latest town hall meeting last week.
Teachers at MISD are motivated to protect their students by any means, Lee said.
“You can’t take the passion out of the heart of the teacher to do whatever it takes for a child, whether that is providing education for them, whether that’s to provide for a meal, whether that’s to provide clothing, or whether it’s to provide protection,” she said. “And that is where it’s such a difficult conversation to have because the teacher isn’t supposed to have to go the route of being trained to have a weapon in their hand for their child but yet because our teachers love our kids so much ... teachers across the country have said ‘if that’s what it takes to protect them I’m willing to do it.’”
The decision being openly discussed with the community for multiple months was pivotal in a smooth decision-making process, Lee said.
“We’ve talked about it all year long. We feel very strongly about transparency here and so we try to involve all stakeholders [including the students] at the beginning, because if you look at some of the concerns people expressed about the program, it’s the psychological effects of students knowing that their teachers have weapons or it’s the community knowing that they are sending their children to school where there’s adults with weapons, how they feel about that,” she said.
Partnering with community feedback as soon and as much as possible is crucial, Lee said.
“Here in Millsap, if you spring something on people suddenly there is going to be a powerful reaction,” she said. “It’s been discussed very openly throughout the year and for people to have an opportunity to express concerns and/or support ... it wasn’t so much support or nonsupport, it was what would our program look like.”
MISD board president Dr. Dene Herbel and other board members expressed the same concerns at last month’s board meeting during a community feedback session about the rigor of any program that would arm teachers in the district.
All security measures cannot be discussed but tactical education will consist of being trained by law enforcement personnel who have survived and had firsthand experience with active shooter incidents and will include marksmanship and movement techniques, Lee said.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to protect our students, therefore if we’re going to have a program, we’re going to have the best program around,” she said.