School Board Hears Update on Proposed “Guardian” Program
Though no action on the matter has been taken, Dell City school board members learned new details of a proposed “school guardian” program during their regular monthly meeting Oct. 25. The guardian program is one approach recommended by Texas state officials to address the potential for school shootings, and it involves training, and arming, school staffers.
Trustees initially heard about the program at their September meeting, in a presentation from local DPS Trooper Mike Schulze. At that time, Schulze said that the DPS and the governor are “very serious” about every district in the state having a plan for school safety. He noted that school shootings are typically “over in five to eight minutes,” and that in Dell City, the response time for a law officer can be 30 minutes or more. Schulze recommended the guardian program as the most practical one for Dell City ISD – more affordable than hiring a full-time peace officer or marshal.
Schulze addressed the board again at the Oct. 25 meeting, and was joined by Hudspeth Sheriff's Deputy Nick Hanshaw. The two provided details on the screening and training process and the potential cost of the guardian program.
Schulze said he and school administrators have discussed training three guardians, though the district might use two instead. One of the guardians – the “lead guardian” – would receive 80 hours of training, which could be provided by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, or FLETC, in Artesia, N.M. The other guardians would have 40 hours of training.
Each guardian candidates would go through a psychological evaluation, which FLETC could conduct, called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI. Schulze said the MMPI is lengthy and complex.
If they were appointed, guardians would go through three to four supplemental firearm trainings each year, Schulze said, to “keep them up-to-date.”
Schulze said he did not know the exact cost of the psychological evaluations or the FLETC training. But he said he would reach out to administrators at Fort Davis ISD or Valentine ISD, both of which have implemented guardian programs, and return with exact numbers for the school board at their next meeting.
Other expenses would include firearms and ammunition for guardians, which would cost about $600 per guardian per year.
Hanshaw thanked the school board for considering the proposal. He said he would like to organize drills, to prepare not just for the possibility of a mass shooting, but for other types of emergencies. He said drills should involve school staff, the sheriff's department and the Dell Valley EMS and Fire services. Hanshaw said the district should consider having guardians trained as emergency-medical responders.
“It's not just school shootings,” he said. “It could be a weather event or a medical emergency, and it's not just during school hours – it could be during after-school activities as well.”
Schulze, Hanshaw and a third officer visited with parents about the proposal earlier in the month. And at the Oct. 25 meeting, Dell City Supt. Ruben Cervantes said he would organize a public meeting “to let parents know the direction we're going and to get their input.”
Confidentiality is critical to the program – no one but school administrators and school board members should know the identities of the guardians. School board members expressed concern about the identities of the guardians becoming public, and asked if a committee of school board members, rather than the full board, might make the selection. But it appears that the full board must vote to appoint guardians. The school board is likely to interview candidates in closed-door sessions.