TISD Officials Consider Arming Select Employees

Efforts to keep Tyler students safe include more than adding warning systems, security cameras and locked doors this school year.

Tyler Independent School District officials want more law enforcement officers on campuses and propose training for selected district employees to carry firearms on school property.

Trustees on Monday approved funding for 13 additional officers and more vehicles for the district’s police department as well as the first reading of proposal code revisions allowing specific employees to carry a handgun.

The proposed change involves the Guardian Program being considered as part of an effort to “address concerns about effective and timely response to emergency situations.” School officials across the state face heightened safety concerns after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde earlier this year.

“Any implementation of this strategy will be tightly examined and hyper-selective considering deployment location and the availability of personnel. The district sees this as an extra line of defense to ensure the safety of our students and staff and will always first rely on our Tyler ISD police force and partnerships with local law enforcement agencies,” Superintendent Marty Crawford said in a prepared statement.

Under the proposed policy, Crawford and trustees may authorize specific district employees to possess certain firearms in schools.

Participating in the program is strictly voluntary and participants must complete a safety program. Only employees who maintain a current license to carry a handgun and are authorized by the district will be allowed to possess a weapon on school property.

Authorization to carry will automatically be revoked if the employee is placed on administrative leave or separates employment for any reason. The superintendent and board trustees also may revoke the authorization at any time, according to the proposed policy.

TISD officials declined to be interviewed about the proposed policies. 

“Those are still pending board approval, so we will not comment until it is approved,” Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Hines said.

Procedure requires trustees to place the proposed revision on the agenda again for what is called a second reading. Board members may discuss the proposal and hear public comments but cannot vote on the proposed revisions until after a third reading in a separate meeting.

The second reading is scheduled for Aug. 4.

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Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: "Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook," and "A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. "Tug" Wilson.