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School District In Texas Armed Staff After Sandy Hook Massacre

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

As we learn more about the massacre at a Florida high school last week, here is the latest fact to emerge. An armed sheriff's deputy was at the school. A big part of his job was to protect students, but he stayed outside and never confronted the gunman. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel described a video he's seen.

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SCOTT ISRAEL: What I saw was a deputy arrive at the west side of Building 12, take up a position, and he never went in.

GREENE: That deputy has now resigned. So who or what can make students safer? Well, this is one thing President Trump is considering.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you had a teacher with - who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.

GREENE: Arming teachers. The president was quickly criticized for taking that position this week. He then doubled down in a series of tweets, calling it a great deterrent and saying attacks would end. Now, one place that is trying this approach already is the Holliday Independent School District in North Texas. Kevin Dyes is the superintendent there, and he joins us on the line this morning. Welcome to the program.

KEVIN DYES: Hi, David. It's a pleasure to be with you.

GREENE: Can you just give me an idea of this policy? Who is armed and who's not?

DYES: Well, part of our policy, or, part of the effect of this policy is we don't necessarily let anyone know who's armed or how many. But the policy does allow for the school board to allow certain members of our staff to conceal carry on campus.

GREENE: So it sounds like that means that a big part of this policy is just for people in the community to know that this is possible. You might in theory have one teacher in an entire school that is armed, but you're trying to keep people who might want to attack sort of guessing.

DYES: I guess so. There would probably be more than that. But we don't necessarily post signs or have any of that. I think it was just a belief by the school board that that is another layer of security that we can add to our campus safety plan to keep our students and our teachers safe.

GREENE: I was talking to a teacher this morning. She's one of the leaders of the National Education Association. She was saying that she would never want to carry a weapon, ever. It sends the wrong message to her students, she feels like. Would a teacher in your district ever be forced or pressured to carry a gun?

DYES: Absolutely not. And our program would be voluntary. And basically because it's concealed carry, the students should never know whether an employee or teacher of the school district is carrying. And that's really part of our program, is that the concealed aspect of it.

GREENE: Can't accidents happen? I mean, I was reading about a sixth-grade teacher injured in 2014 when she discharged her gun by mistake while she was using the bathroom in a faculty restroom in Utah. Isn't that a risk here?

DYES: Sure. No, absolutely. There's always a risk, you know, when you're handling a firearm. I assume there would always be a risk. When our board enacted our policy, we have a standard operating procedure that we follow in terms of the type of weapon, the type of holster. And it really outlines when and how we would be authorized to use it, as well.

GREENE: So do teachers who are going to conceal and carry inside a school undergo a lot of training?

DYES: I wouldn't say a lot. So it would be like SWAT training, or anything like that. But certainly our standard operating procedure prescribes how much training they're to have. They also have to undergo a psychological evaluation and then stay timely with their training.

GREENE: Do you worry at all about the message this sends to students, to young people?

DYES: No. Not within the context of our school district. And I think that's the thing you have to remember. There's a lot of diversity in the United States, and there's even a lot of diversity in Texas. So when, you know, when you start looking at independent school districts even with the state of Texas, there are over 1,100, and many of them very, very different. So I don't think this would work unless there's community support, which means the school community, whether they agree or not with the idea that there's still support for it.

GREENE: Speaking to Kevin Dyes. He is the superintendent of the Holliday Independent School District in North Texas, where there's already a policy in place that allows teachers to conceal and carry weapons, an idea President Trump has offered this week in the wake of that shooting in Florida. Kevin Dyes, thanks so much for your time this morning. We really appreciate it.

DYES: All right, David. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.