With around 2,000 students in the district's three campuses, Argyle ISD is a small, quiet district located smack dab in the middle of Denton and Fort Worth, off Interstate 35. And this school year, some teachers at Argyle ISD have a secret: Several of them have a guns hidden away on their bodies while they're busy writing lessons on the classroom whiteboard.
For the upcoming school year, Argyle ISD is one of a few districts in North Texas that will be implementing the controversial Protection of Texas Children Act passed by the Legislature in 2013. The bill allows for certain districts to train appointed administrators or teachers to possess firearms in their classrooms in case of emergencies. The move was first suggested as a response to the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and is the brainchild of freshman Representative Jason Villalba.
Argyle ISD will not be implementing the statewide school marshal program that was organized under the act. Instead, they have put together their own unique initiative to equip teachers with guns. Argyle ISD Police Chief Ralph Price -- he's also the district's sole police officer -- says this is because the marshal program requires that guns be locked in a classroom safe at all times. In Argyle teachers can carry concealed weapons on their person.
"The basic difference is that our teachers are armed and the weapons are on the teacher," he says. "The state marshal program says that the teachers have to keep weapons locked up in the classroom. But what happens if a teacher takes the kids to the auditorium? They can't take that gun with them."
For the most part, districts are putting more money into local district security instead. And the law was intended to benefit remote districts that did not have quick access to emergency personnel. But Argyle has Price, not to mention Denton and Tarrant County emergency resources.
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"Argyle wanted to do what's best for the district to keep the kids as safe as possible," says Price. "And now they not only have a police department, but they have an additional layer. I can't be everywhere, so it's how fast I can get to a problem. If an event could possibly happen, it's just something extra."
Designated armed employees must possess a state concealed handgun license and be approved by the school board. They also have to undergo quarterly district training, which involves a psychological exam and a firearms and emergency response training course.
Price that the district would be keeping the identities of the armed teachers, who were selected from a volunteer pool, closed to the public -- only Superintendent Telena Wright, the principals and Price himself know the names of the gun carriers.
Price spoke from a headset in his car as he drove around the otherwise peaceful Argyle campuses, the radio dispatch crackling in the background. As he drove, he passed by the red-and-white signs that are firmly planted and by now familiar sights outside the schools. They read, "Attention: Please be aware that the staff at Argyle ISD are armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect their students."