AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After the deadly high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas over the summer, administrators at Edna Independent School District have carefully reviewed their own campus security plans.
“It’s our commitment to school safety, no different than we would approach academics,” assistant superintendent Madelyn Maresh said Wednesday.
Together, with the guidance of local law enforcement partners, the district decided to implement a guardian program, which authorizes specific, generally unidentified, employees to carry on campus at all times.
The district announced Wednesday it had purchased a dozen ballistic vests from a Philadelphia-based company called Unequal.
“Edna ISD wants to ensure that we have provided our guardian staff with appropriate training, as well as the best and latest equipment,” Maresh said.
The head of Unequal, Rob Vito, said the vest “not only stops handguns, but it stops shotguns and stab(bings).”
District officials are also considering purchasing backpack inserts.
“Our goal is to provide the faculty and the students protection at ground zero,” Vito said. “So right there in the classroom when the threat becomes immediate, the students have alternatives.”
The vests retail for $500, and districts are charged $350 for them, while the backpack inserts sell for $150, but $99 for districts, Vito said.
Edna ISD received federal Title IV funding, which aims to provide students a well-rounded education, keep students healthy and safe, and improve the use of technology for better student achievement.
While administrators say they have received some support for the plan, some other education advocates are not on board with the implementation of bulletproof gear on campuses.
“Putting kids in bulletproof outfits is not high on our priority list,” Texas American Federation of Teachers president Louis Malfaro said.
“I think that it’s wrong to say to parents, ‘When you’re back to school shopping for those new shoes, pencils, notebooks, don’t forget to pick up the bulletproof material,'” Malfaro continued.
Malfaro said some districts have taken steps to mitigate violence on campuses, by implementing more rigorous mental health training for staff, and focusing on other support, both physical and mental, for students.
Edna ISD superintendent Robert O’Connor said he wanted his district to exercise whatever options are deemed necessary to protect students.
“I want to feel good about the fact that we have done all that we can do,” O’Connor said.
Vito said his company was also working on deals with other Texas school districts.