The new program comes less than two years after a tragic shooting at Santa Fe High School that killed 10 and injured 13.
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"Santa Fe ISD is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment for our students, teachers, and staff. This decision resulted from an extensive evaluation of the Guardian Program including comprehensive research, conversations with key stakeholders, and feedback from districts that have had the program in place since 2013," Santa Fe ISD said in a statement.
The program is intended to serve as a "last line of defense measure" in case of an emergency within the district.
Employees who volunteer for the Guardian program are required to pass a rigorous application process and meet the same marksmanship qualifications as Santa Fe ISD police officers.
Approved applicants will complete at least 40 hours of comprehensive classroom and live fire training, and will be required to meet re-qualification requirements annually.
Santa Fe ISD officials say the selection process will require criminal background screening and psychological evaluations.
"Santa Fe ISD is continuously evaluating and enhancing its processes, infrastructure, training, and resources to ensure its schools meet the highest standards for safety and security," they said in the statement.
The implementation of the Guardian program will begin on Monday, March 16.
Santa Fe Superintendent Leigh Wall said in a letter to parents that the district will be adding signage around the school buildings indicating that personnel on campus may be armed.
Santa Fe ISD joins more than 300 school districts across Texas to implement the Guardian program.
The following are important notes about the Guardian program, taken from Wall's letter to parents:
- Guardian Program participation is strictly voluntary - no employee will be required to participate, and the district may revoke an employee's participation at any time.
- Employees who are currently licensed to carry a weapon in the State of Texas are eligible to volunteer and apply to be considered for the Guardian Program.
- The selection process will require criminal background screening, as well as psychological evaluations utilizing the same process and standards as police officer applicants.
- Approved applicants for the Guardian Program will be required to complete a rigorous application process including a minimum of 40 hours of comprehensive classroom/live fire course instruction meeting the same marksmanship qualification standards as a Santa Fe ISD Police Officer.
- Program participants will be required to complete annual training including live fire weapons practice and marksmanship qualifications in order to maintain their eligibility for participation.
- A Guardian is considered a last line of defense for classroom teachers or district employees to protect their own life and the life of any third-party in their charge -the program is not designed for the Guardian to leave their area of responsibility and act as a first responder.
- In the interest of district security and maintaining the integrity of the program, the District will not be releasing the identity or numbers of District employees selected as Guardian program participants in accordance with applicable provisions of the Texas Government Code Chapter 552.
- The implementation of the Guardian Program will take place following Spring Break with signage added around school buildings to indicate that personnel on campus may be armed.
The district is compiling any questions the community has at www.safetyupdates.com. They are planning to address the questions in a community update after Spring Break.
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