Rural school district leaders consider arming staff, request funding for school resource officers

Medina County commissioners to hear proposal on Thursday

Rural school district leaders consider arming staff, request funding for school resource officers

NATALIA, Texas – School district leaders in Medina County are asking the Commissioners Court to consider funding six school resource officers for each school district in the county.

Five districts have at least one school resource officer (SRO), according to Natalia ISD Board President Eric Smith.

“I’m just hoping our county commissioners get on board with this idea. I realize that’s going to be a cost. I realize it’s an extra expense,” he said.

In light of what’s happened in the nearby community of Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers last Tuesday, Smith said rural school districts need help creating a safe environment for students.

“Nobody wants this to happen. Nobody’s going to plan for this to happen. You know, all we can do is do our best. And sometimes our best isn’t enough, unfortunately,” he said.

County commissioners are set to hear the proposal on Thursday, although no action is expected.

Smith said the SRO funding would be needed for a few years until the district can figure out a plan. He said they’re also considering the guardian program, which arms confidential staff members.

La Vernia ISD is currently busy interviewing people for its guardian program. The board approved arming staff in early May, following a close call in January when someone tried to enter their campus.

The rural districts have turned to Nixon-Smiley CISD for guidance. The district started using the guardian program in 2018.

Nixon-Smiley CISD Superintendent Jeff Vanauken said everyone in the program gets a psychological evaluation. The administration and board members approve those in the program, and they must pass the state training.

“As far as the safety of our students, the guardian program seems to meet our needs,” Vanauken said. “They are being trained specifically for the active shooter situation. So I feel very confident about our training program for them.”

Lynelle Sparks, executive director for the Texas Association of School Resource Officers, which has about 800 members, said active shooter training should include school staff, students and parents.

“That’s also practicing the aftermath, meaning the reunification process, because it’s a huge ordeal when it does happen,” Sparks said. “And if you don’t have those in place, it’s going to be chaos. And we already know it’s chaos to begin with.”

Sparks said rural school districts have to consider having an SRO, school guardian or marshal officer because minutes matter in an active shooter scene.

“We know that a lot of deaths occur in those first few minutes,” Sparks said.


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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.