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2016-09-29

Medina ISD makes national news

By Sandy Jennings BCC Staff Writer

Known mostly for apple orchards, scenic Hill Country and one of the biggest Homecoming celebrations in small town Texas, the quaint town of Medina found itself in the headlines and in front of cameras across the nation.
The media and social media blitz rained down on the small town after Medina ISD posted the first of several signs stating, “Please be aware that the staff at Medina ISD may be armed and will use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.”
“I was very surprised by all the attention,” Medina ISD Superintendent Penny White said. “Schools in Texas began doing this in 2008. We are not the first by far. I guess security is something that people are increasingly more passionate about in our violent society.”
White is correct. According to the Texas Association of School Boards, over 100 school districts in Texas have adopted, what many call “the guardian plan,” which, following school board approval and individual licensing, allows teachers and staff members to be armed on campus.
Argyle Independent School District in north Texas was one of many districts whose board voted unanimously to start their 2014-15 school year with newly armed teachers, given the right to use firearms “to protect our students.”
Argyle also made national news, when they erected their signs on campus warning the public that, “the staff at Argyle ISD are armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.”
Unlike Medina’s sign which states their staff “may” be armed, Argyle makes it clear that their staff is packing.
“Armed staff answers the question: What about the first 1 to 2 minutes in a crisis situation where there’s an armed shooter?” Argyle Superintendent Telena Wright told the Dallas Morning News. “That seems to be a horrific situation that all schools across the nation are attempting to address. This is our answer to how we best protect our students.”
Medina Superintendent White shares these same concerns.
“We’re 25 minutes from Bandera and that’s our closest law enforcement,” White told KSAT 12. “You never know if there’s a transient or someone who has zeroed in on harming a child.”
Medina board member Dr. James Lindstrom told KSAT 12 there wasn’t any specific event that ignited the discussion of arming staff members that started over a year ago, stating it was just “the general environment nationally.” However, many school districts sought more aggressive safety plans after the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.
Twenty children aged between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members were shot to death by a lone 20 year old assassin, who turned the gun on himself when first responders arrived at the scene.
The incomprehensible event sparked school boards across the nation to create their own safety plans with additional exceptions to the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA).
The GFSZA was originally enacted in 1990, as a federal law that requires states restrict firearms on school property under the GFSZA, 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2)(A).
According to the Texas Association of School Boards, state and federal statutes create a complex web of regulations related to the presence of firearms on school district property. Whether a firearm is permitted depends on several factors, including who is carrying the firearm, the location on school property, and local school district policy, among other factors. Both federal and state laws begin with a presumption that school premises are gunfree zones. Both federal and state laws also create certain exceptions, and allow school boards to create additional exceptions, to that general rule.
Like Medina, the Keene ISD school board, in Keene, Texas, voted unanimously to initiate the guardian program for their 2015-16 school year. The program allowed a few staff members selected by the district to carry guns inside the district’s four campuses.
“If you’d asked me 10 years ago, whether I ever would’ve been for it, I would’ve said no,” Keene Superintendent Ricky Stephens told ABC News. “That old mentality of ‘it can’t happen here’ has started to leave a lot of small towns.”
Medina School Board President Andy Lautzenheiser agrees.
“We’re not living in the world you and I grew up in. It’s a dangerous world,” Lautzenheiser told SA Express News.
According to Lautzenheiser, only licensed handgun carriers will be chosen to participate in the safety plan and all weapons will be under lock and key. Staff members chosen for the program are working with the Bandera Sheriff's department for extensive training.
White feels the signs are the first preventive defense against intruders.
“I think that anybody who might have a thought about harming someone, might think twice about it,” White told KSAT 12.
Medina residents seem to agree, showering White and the school board with social media support. In fact, support for Medina ISD’s safety plan decision is coming from all over the nation.
Following the Washington Post story, which began,”The sign is large, like Texas, and unabashedly direct, like the state’s collective attitude,” Edward Bernal wrote,”Finally, one school district in the state of Texas that isn’t worried about political correctness more than the safety and well being of their students!”
The safety and well being of Medina ISD students is definitely the driving force for Lautzenheiser and his board.
“We want to protect our most valuable treasures--our children,” Lautzenheiser told SA Express News. “That’s what’s behind this whole thing.”