STEPHEN HEMELT — Talk of armed staffers in Nederland schools. What’s next move for NISD?

Published 12:32 am Sunday, August 21, 2022

Nederland Police Chief Gary Porter was clear this week in endorsing a school district program in his city that would vet, arm and train — for security purposes — selected school employees.

Nothing is imminent or even agreed to, but Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick is beginning to poll Nederland Independent School District personnel about their willingness to participate in such an effort.

Administrators are studying active marshal programs and guardian programs in Texas, while also utilizing local feedback to determine how to move forward.

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Porter said there are many teachers and employees inside the school district who are safety conscious and able to absorb the responsibilities and lessons needed in armed security.

“I have all the faith in that,” he told school board members. “I personally know there are many employees inside our school district that if somebody tried to come in and harm one of our employees, they will do what they have to do, including giving their lives. The thing is, we want to make sure they have the chance to protect themselves and not just give their lives on a suicide mission if, God forbid, one of these maniacs gets inside one of our schools.”

Following the meeting, Nederland school board president Micah Mosley told me district leaders began discussing the program’s possibilities with Nederland Police over the summer, focusing on potential pros and cons.

District leaders needed to have an understanding, from a strategic standpoint, what armed school staff could potentially look like and if it was even worth diving into further.

“I think what you heard Monday was Chief Porter’s 100 percent buy-in of pushing this type of program,” Mosley said. “When something like that comes from the chief of police of your city, it is a powerful person to endorse a program.

“Like he touched on, they have an incredible response time already. They are integrated with our schools really well. They are already checking doors and walking through the halls on a continuous basis while on shift. They scope out the schools at night and run drills with different departments across the state.”

School and police leaders stress this potential new security program would not be the only or leading source of school security.

Nederland Police Department officers already have keys to every door they need to get into within the school district.

Mosley said when motorists drive by local schools during or after academic hours, they probably see a police officer in the parking lot or parked up by the front door and ask, “what is that guy or girl doing?”

“This has been going on for years, where the chief encourages them: ‘just go park in front of the school. Don’t come back to your office. Do your paperwork while you sit at the school,’” Mosley said.

This is also a good time to point out there is a strong working relationship between the school district and City of Nederland. Everyone wants to see success and safety.

With any type of program like this, Mosley knows there are going to be district employees and members of the public who don’t support it.

“I wanted to specify that no teacher or staff member is ever going to be required to do something like this,” he said. “This will be a purely 100 percent volunteer program. I did not want any staff member or teacher to say, ‘they are going to require me to do this.’ That is certainly not the case.”

What’s important now is for Kieschnick and the rest of NISD’s administrators to solicit feedback and questions from staff members.

Find out the pros and cons and work to identify any cons that have risks that could be mitigated and come up with plans on how to best address those, Mosley said.

School shootings are a tragic but undeniable aspect of education in 2022. With no anticipation of that going away anytime soon, I’m sure other school districts will start examining new ways to add security for local students.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes panews.com and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@panews.com or 409-721-2445.