McALLEN, December 23 - The president of McAllen ISD’s board of trustees says she is not necessarily against having armed guards on campus but wants the government to proceed with caution on the issue.
“It’s an option. Is it not something that everybody could do or would want to do,” said Hilda Garza-DeShazo, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.
Garza-DeShazo made her comments following a call by the National Rifle Association to have armed guards in all schools across the United States. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A. vice president, at a news conference on Friday.
LaPierre held the news conference to stake out the NRA’s position in the wake of the killing of 27 people, including 20 children aged six and seven, at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. LaPierre was widely criticized for the comments he made at the news conference, with some gun control supporters and newspapers calling him “crazy.” However, he stuck to his position on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
"If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," LaPierre said on Meet the Press. "I think the American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one thing that would keep people safe."
McAllen ISD’s board of trustees was named 2012 Outstanding School Board in the Texas Association of School Administrators’ annual School Board Awards Program. Board President Garza-DeShazo pointed out that thousands of school districts already have armed personnel. She said she suspects many more would, if the funding was there.
“Right now, the country is grieving. The country is angry. The country is sad. We need to take some time, have a logical, reasonable, debate and discussion. I think a lot of the people I see right now are still hurting. They are still angry and you cannot have that kind of discussion when you are feeling that way,” she said.
Garza-DeShazo is a former teacher and school principal. She said that when she coached the debating team she warned against getting angry. “I always had to tell them, in order to debate a subject you have to be passionate. But the first person who gets angry is going to lose the debate. We need to proceed with logical and reasonable discussion and debate, not anger, not grieving, not emotion,” she said.
An issue that comes up when discussing armed guards in schools is how much equipment to provide them with. If someone comes on campus unlawfully carrying a semi-automatic, should the armed guard have the same weapon? “I do not know that an armed officer with a hand gun or a rifle would be any resistance to someone with a semi-automatic,” Garza-DeShazo said.
Garza-DeShazo said security at McAllen ISD was discussed at the last meeting of the board of trustees. She said she would be open to such discussion again.
“I think all school districts need to be on high alert. I think it is so sad it has gotten to this situation. We want our children to feel safe at school but I do not want them to feel like they are locked into school. I think we as teachers, parents, the community, just need to be very aware of all of the issues, starting with mental health issues and to reach out to those children,” Garza-DeShazo said.
“I was a teacher and I was a principal and we know who those kids are. We can identify them, help the parents help them. I think that is one way to help. As far as being armed in the classroom, I do not know. I am not sure at this point. I think it is something we would have to look at very carefully.”
Garza-DeShazo said she would not have wanted to be armed when she was a school principal. “At the same time, what if something happened. There are two sides to this. We need to proceed with a lot of caution. Let us look at other alternatives. Let us look at ways we can address those root motivations. What is it that motivates someone to do something like that?” she said.
Garza-DeShazo pointed out that at a recent incident in a school in China, an intruder injured student with a knife. “You do not always need a gun to do bad things. We need to proceed with a lot of caution and a lot of thought and discussion. Maybe we will have to get to the point where we have armed security. As a teacher I do not want to be a bodyguard but I might have felt safer if I knew there was a bodyguard out there that is going to be on alert and aware,” she said.
Garza-DeShazo added that is sad it has got to this point. “I love schools. I want our kids to love schools and to feel safe. Teachers are at the heart of education. We ask them to do so much. I hope they can do their job with the passion most teachers have. It is not a job, it is a passion. You do it because you love kids,” she said.