La Vernia ISD launches new guardian program

The program was met with overwhelming support by parents and staff

LA VERNIA – We are continuing our coverage on guardian programs -- school boards can decide to arm select staff members.

Nixon-Smiley’s school district has had the program for years. This year, Natalia ISD is training employees for the program.

Now La Vernia ISD is in the process of arming some of its own staff just as students began school Monday.

“The start of the school year, we’ll have, we’ll have guardians on our campus protecting our kids,” Dr. Michael Duffek, the district’s director of safety and security, said.

Safety and protection are paramount every school year, but especially in the wake of the Robb Elementary tragedy.

“If you drive around the campuses, you’ll see some additional fencing has gone up and trainings that are taking place,” Duffek said. “There’s a lot of things that we were reactive to as far as, you know, trying to secure the property a little bit more. But we had a lot of great things in place already.”

La Vernia ISD approved plans for armed staff on campus just weeks before the Uvalde shooting.

Duffek said the guardian program was met with 88% approval from the community and 80% approval by the staff.

But a lot of the ins and outs of the program are being kept quiet.

“Can you say how many guardians there are going to be?” reporter Leigh Waldman asked.

“No. Yeah, we’re going to keep them completely confidential. I won’t even let, like our principals want to know who the guardians are. It’s a, it’s a very, very small group of people who will know,” Duffek replied.

There are signs up at every campus letting everyone know the teachers are armed and ready to protect.

“It was a breath of fresh air to, to have them and see them and, and know that people can see. We’re not just saying it. You know we are, we are implementing it,” Duffek said.

Duffek previously worked at Nixon-Smiley ISD, which has had a guardian program for five years.

In a statement, the district wrote “the success of its program hinges on the ongoing rigorous training, continued community support, and partnership with local law enforcement.”

While Monday was the first day of the new guardian program, Duffek believes this is something more districts should adopt when it comes to protecting kids.

“This is just something they can do to have that protection as well without having to pay for additional roles,” Duffek said.

The state requires guardians to have classroom and weapons training, along with an annual psychological exam, a license to carry and submit to random drug tests.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.