Lometa school officials are looking more closely at allowing trained, licensed staff members to carry concealed handguns on campus.
About five years ago, the Lometa ISD Board of Trustees approved a plan for then-superintendent David Rice to authorize specific employees to possess certain firearms on campus and at school functions.
Current Superintendent David Fisher revived the conversation at the February school board meeting one day after a school in Parkland, Florida was the target of a killing spree.
Fisher, who became superintendent in 2016, explained in an interview last week that he had temporarily halted the concealed-carry proposal until teachers received proper training. But with recent shootings in other locations, Fisher believes it is time to act more quickly to prepare teachers.
“So that we can get people that are on campus that have the ability to defend our students,” Fisher said at the school board meeting. “We need to have it done, because it could happen anywhere.”
Different school districts have taken a wide variety of stances on the issue of armed staff members.
Lometa’s policy states that the superintendent must develop a list of staff authorized to carry, then present that list to the school board for approval. For safety reasons, the list will remain confidential – with only law enforcement, the superintendent and trustees having knowledge of who is authorized to carry.
Fisher said a certified instructor already has offered to provide training for Lometa teachers who may begin carrying firearms.
Along with holding a License to Carry, teachers must attend additional training before being allowed to carry on the Lometa campus.
“Student and staff safety is of utmost importance to us,” Fisher said.
“We have a good police force in Lometa, but they're not very big,” he added.
Because Lometa is a rural community, residents know there could be a delay from other law enforcement agencies that might assist.
"It took the guy in Florida three minutes to do what he did," Fisher said. “It took law enforcement five to six minutes to get there."
The superintendent wants to avoid what has been a common trend in many of the nation’s most notorious mass shootings.
"A lot of the shootings you’re seeing, they're picking on people who can't defend themselves,” he said. “We've got to give an opportunity for our people."
Fisher contends that having armed school staff is a more cost-effective solution than hiring a fulltime school resource officer or a private security officer. He also said he has not heard from any parents or community members who are opposed to the concealed-carry plan for teachers.
Lometa Chief of Police Bob Montgomery said he is confident that school administrators will handle the concealed carry issue well.
“With the proper training, I don’t have a problem with it…” Montgomery said. “We let these people carry with concealed carry anywhere else, and I don’t see the difference with someone at Walmart being able to take action versus a school… If a teacher was able to stop a shooting like they had in Florida, I think all the controversy about this would go away.”
Montgomery said he would like to have input on training, and for training to be on an ongoing basis.
Other security measures have taken place in Lometa over the past few years, too.
A chain-link fence has been installed, five exterior doors to the school building require a key to enter, and there is "only one way to get into the school, and that is through the front door," Fisher said.
The school uses security cameras, and officials are considering a different type of exterior door to enhance safety.
Fisher said there will not be any open carry allowed on Lometa school grounds. And employees who are uncomfortable carrying firearms would not be expected to do so, Fisher and Montgomery both stated.
Fisher said the district’s gun policy would apply to extracurricular events held on campus. At sports events, for example, visiting school staff would be subject to the rules of the host school.
Fisher has worked for Lometa ISD about 18 years. He described how different the approach to school safety is now than in the past.
“We didn't have locked doors in front,” he said. “We had an open campus where you could go in just about any door anywhere.
"It was a different time, and we definitely didn't have concealed carry and [were not] even considering it."
Tragic events across the country have revealed that “it’s real easy to look after the fact … [and say] ‘This thing happened. You should’ve done something, ’cause you should’ve seen that this person was capable of doing this,’ ” Fisher said.
The superintendent offered his opinion about the root cause of violence.
“My biggest deal personally ... it's not a gun issue,” Fisher said. “And it could be a mental health issue, but it’s a heart issue. We've got people that just have no morals, and they don't care what they do to other people.”
Even before high-profile crimes brought the issue to the national forefront, Fisher said school officials would look out for suspicious or threatening activities.
“If a child needed help, we would do that, and we would continue to do that, ’cause this is about the kids,” he said. “And they shouldn't have to worry about getting shot up at school ... We need our people to watch out, and let us know if they see anything suspicious and let us do the investigation before people jump to conclusions.”