Entries in School District (2)


Texas School District to Arm Teachers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LUBBOCK, Texas) -- Educators in a Texas school district will soon be permitted to carry guns in the classroom, assuming they get approval from the school superintendent, pass a training course and obtain a concealed-handgun license.

The Levelland Independent School District, which is about 30 miles west of Lubbock, instituted the policy in response to last year's deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as the shooting at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

"How do you describe a tragedy like that? It's devastating," Levelland ISD Superintendant Kelly Baggett told ABC News, referencing the Sandy Hook massacre. "It absolutely instilled fear in all of us and made us take a hard look at where we are with our safety and security."

Baggett said the Levelland ISD School board voted Thursday for the policy change allowing teachers to carry guns only after extensive research and a series of meetings.

"Not every teacher in Levelland is going to carry a gun to campus," Baggett said. "It will be certain individuals that I and the school approve. The training is paramount. It's absolutely the most important thing."

Under the new policy, teachers would first need to obtain a concealed-handgun license and pass a gun-training course. The exact nature of the training course isn't yet known, but the Texas State Legislature is considering legislation to establish standards for firearms training for public school employees.

Levelland would not be the first Texas school district to arm employees. David Thweatt, superintendent for Harrold Independent School District in north-central Texas, told ABC News that his school board voted unanimously to arm school employees after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which he says was a wakeup call.

"The idea that we have moved into a society that the police have to do everything is ridiculous," Thweatt said. "Active shooters know where they are going. If your school is known to have a policy in place where people are protecting children with deadly force, they are not coming to your school."

Thweatt says the training his employees received involved lots of time spent on accuracy and shooting, while the other component involved strategies for clearing and securing rooms. It took about a week to complete.

Baggett of the Levelland district said Texas law does not allow handguns on public school property, but a loophole exists in the penal code that says that a school board can authorize concealed handguns with the approval of a school attorney. The Levelland ISD has about 3,000 students and 485 staff members spread across eight campuses and, Baggett says, he hopes to arm two employees per campus.

Baggett says the parental and community response to the new policy arrangement has been mostly positive. "For the most part, we are getting very, very nice compliments and encouragement and positive remarks from our community members and they are applauding us for taking a stand and doing what we are doing," he said.

Baggett hopes to get those he chooses to arm trained this summer and have them ready and on campus before the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

"I have reservations about putting weapons in employees' hands," he said. "We are trained educators and it's a shame that it's gotten to the point in society that we are having to arm our school employees to protect their kids. But my philosophy is I want to do everything I can to protect our kids."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


School District Pays Out $4.2M to Student Paralyzed by Bully Attack

Comstock/Thinkstock(RAMSEY, N.J.) -- Sawyer Rosenstein’s life changed on May 16, 2006, when he was a 12-year-old student at Eric Smith Middle School in Ramsey, N.J. That day, another student punched him in the abdomen, sending a blood clot to his spine, and eventually paralyzing him from the waist down a week later.

Rosenstein, who has been in a wheelchair for the past six years, is now a college student, and the case he and his family brought against the school district was settled this week for $4.2 million.  The family’s attorney, Jeffrey Youngman, told ABC News that this case is unique; he doesn’t know of any other bullying case that has resulted in a larger settlement based on personal injury.

“This was a three-pronged case,” he told ABC News. “We had to show that his paralysis was a result of the punch. We also found that the school knew Sawyer had been regularly bullied, and didn’t do anything about it, and that the other student had showed violent propensities, and they didn’t do anything about that either.”

Rosenstein had sent emails to several school administrators in the months before the paralyzing punch telling them he was being bullied, at one point even saying he wanted to get it all “on record” in case anything happened to him in the future. He addressed emails to both the school guidance counselor and assistant principal, informing them of the bullying and asking for help.

Youngman found that there had been at least three separate reports, one involving police, of the other student violently bullying his classmates, but the school didn’t keep any paperwork documenting investigations or any documents showing disciplinary actions.

After the settlement was reached, the Ramsey Board of Education released a statement denying any wrongdoing, and saying that the district’s insurance carriers agreed to the settlement and will pay it out.

The family chose to make this case public, Youngman said, in order to help educate students and schools about what should be done about bullying.

New Jersey enacted a tough new anti-bullying law last year, but Youngman says such laws are useless unless they are enforced and adequately funded.

A separate, confidential settlement was reached with the family of the student who punched Rosenstein.

Rosenstein decided to study communications at Syracuse University after he attended last year’s final space shuttle launch as a credentialed media member.

“This is a case of triumph and moving on,” Youngman told ABC News. “Bullying is a real problem, and hopefully this family’s courage can help show people what can happen, and how to stop it.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio