EducationGunsStatewide NewsSchool Districts Embrace ‘Guardian’ Program to Arm Employees for School Safety

The Guardian certification program is being adopted by school districts around the state to help keep students and staff safe this school year.
August 18, 2022
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As children and teachers return to school this week, safety remains a concern on the minds of many parents, students, and school district employees, especially given the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde in May.

Texas has a number of options that school districts can implement for increased security measures.

The “Guardian” plan allows the school district to authorize certain employees to carry weapons on campus. Weapons are generally not allowed on school campuses, but the Texas Penal Code provides an exception if written authorization is given by the district.

According to the Texas School Safety Center audit of 1,022 districts, 280 have opted for this route.

Rep. Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville) noted that several school districts within House District (HD) 59, a mostly rural district in central Texas, have opted to arm district employees through the “Guardian” program.

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Because there is no reporting requirement it is challenging to have exact numbers, but Slawson said she knows of at least three school districts that have recently implemented the program for the 2022-23 school year. Before that, at least four others within HD 59 had Guardian programs.

Jeff Sellers’ son was on a field trip at Fort Hood the same day 13 people were killed in a mass shooting there. The incident prompted him to use his training and expertise to develop the Guardian program in 2009, using the written authorization exception found in the Penal Code.

Under his version, school districts could grant written permission to individuals to carry a weapon. It became more streamlined and recognized after the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) created the School Safety Program, which is the Guardian Program with DPS certification, in 2014.

Under the Texas Government Code, DPS trained and licensed instructors to train school district employees who already have their license-to-carry permit in specific school safety measures.

Sellers recommends school districts employ the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory psychological evaluation, often used to screen and select law enforcement candidates, when choosing the Guardians for their district.

Guardian training consists of 16 hours of both classroom instruction and shooting skills.

The classroom instruction covers topics such as crime prevention and deterrence, mental preparedness, use of force, interaction with law enforcement, and recovery after an event.

The shooting skills portion differs from typical firearms training in that it includes skills involving a moving target, combat targets, and scenario training, Sellers noted.

Slawson believes the Guardian program is beneficial because of the flexibility it allows.

“One great benefit of the Guardian option is that it allows local school boards to institute and manage a safety program customized to their own needs,” Slawson pointed out.

“Some of our smaller districts might struggle with the burden of the school marshal program…the Guardian program also requires training, but without the more cumbersome and expensive certification process. Each school district’s safety needs are unique, which is why I am thankful they have a range of options to implement to keep our children safe,” she added.

The initial certification costs about $1,900 through Sellers’ program, with annual requalification costing about $800.

Sellers said that since the tragedy in Uvalde, he has seen significantly increased interest in the program by school districts. He knows of between 40 and 50 districts in the process of adopting the program since the shooting.

By far, his clients are smaller school districts in rural areas, often because of the response time of law enforcement over long distances.

He helps make recommendations to the districts after conducting a security assessment, including strategies for having all parts of a building covered.

“It is not just teachers we train,” Sellers pointed out. “We want staff all over campus.”

“I understand the critics who don’t want guns in school, but the problem isn’t going away, and we need to do what it takes to protect the children.”

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.