Guardian plans

Guardian plans pose interesting, unanswered questions about the liabilities of armed school staff.

Faith Academy is planning on implementing a program that will allow teachers and staff to carry weapons at school.

The private Victoria Christian school is joining several area school districts in taking advantage of a Texas law that gives school officials the authority to let private individuals have guns on school premises, which is otherwise illegal.

This provision is often called the “guardian plan” or “guardian program,” though that name is not official.

Unlike most of the public school districts that have implemented such a plan, Faith’s teachers and staff will have the guns on their person during the school day, according to Principal Larry Long.

Those staff members will be trained by Cully Stoilis, a local firearms instructor who is self-employed at On Target Training in Victoria.

Stoilis is a licensed instructor for Texas License to Carry classes, he said, and has a school safety certification from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The DPS certification program qualifies handgun instructors to provide school safety training to school employees.

The certification course provides 15-20 hours of training, which addresses student protection, interaction with first responders, tactics for denying an intruder entry into a school or classroom and methods for increasing handgun accuracy while under duress.

The DPS does not directly train or certify school staff, only the instructor, though the instructor reports attendance to the DPS.

Neither the certification nor a class taught by a certified instructor provides any authority to carry a gun in school, according to the DPS.

That authority instead comes from a school district board or other school authorities under the so-called “guardian plan” statute, which is not legally connected to the DPS certification — a common misconception even among school officials and firearm instructors.

The training for Faith Academy staff hasn’t happened yet, Stoilis said, but is planned to start in the coming weeks.

It will include training in the basics of shooting, drawing from the holster and a license to carry class, Long said, coming out to 40 hours of training in addition to continued training throughout the year.

The school decided to implement the program after the May shooting in Uvalde, which killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers.

“This isn’t a decision that was made lightly,” Long said. “It’s one that we’ve talked about for several years, but with the recent incident with Uvalde, really close to home, that we need to do what we need as a school in order to protect our students.”

He estimated it would take five to seven minutes for law enforcement to get to campus in case of an emergency, and said there was “a lot of dialogue” with local law enforcement, particularly the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office.

The school is also following area school districts by providing a U.S. LawShield membership to armed teachers, which provides legal services related to weapons. It also has a liability insurance policy in place, though individual teachers might not.

Faith Academy will be one of the first Crossroads private schools to arm its staff.

Trinity Episcopal School’s Head of School Kristy Nelson said the Episcopal Diocese prohibits such a policy in its schools, but that it does have security measures in place which sometimes include off duty law enforcement.

None of Northside Baptist School’s staff have weapons at school except for Director Layne Elkins, who said he’s sometimes armed and has a License to Carry.

Victoria Christian School’s Administrator Catherine Key declined to comment about whether the school had such a policy in place, citing security concerns.

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Ian Grenier covers K-12 and higher education for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach him at igrenier@vicad.com