Nederland freshman to school board: Don’t arm teachers and staff members

Published 12:32 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

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NEDERLAND — A proposal to vet, arm and train — for security purposes — selected school employees within the Nederland Independent School ran into an impassioned counterpoint Monday night.

Joseph Hawkins, a Nederland High ninth grader, said it is important school board members heard from one of their students.

“I am not anti-gun,” he said. “I believe in the second amendment. I have been taught a safe respect for firearms since I have been old enough to walk.”

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At 15 years old for this week’s school board meeting, Hawkins shared he was 5 when the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting occurred in Connecticut, 10 when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting took place in Florida and 14 when the Robb Elementary shooting took place in Uvalde.

“I have never known a world in which gun violence in schools didn’t exist,” Hawkins said. “It is terrifying, and I am scared. I understand you want to do everything you can to protect every student. I just strongly believe that more guns is not the answer.”

He stressed the presence of more guns is not a deterrent.

“The Nederland PD and other first responders can be here quickly in the event of an emergency,” he said. “If a school shooting happens here, I have full faith in our police officers to do what they are trained to do.”

According to Hawkins, access to firearms triples the risk in death by suicide and doubles the risk in death by homicide.

“Why would we want something like that in the same room while we are learning algebra or reading Shakespeare,” he said. “I am happy to leave the guns in the hands of our trained law enforcement officers. I have a simple plea to the adults in charge: please find a better way to keep us safe. Arming teachers and staff members is not the way to go.”

School members listened to Hawkins’ speech during public comments and thanked him for his time, but otherwise did not address the substance of the remarks during the meeting. That follows school board practice for public comments during meetings.

Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick previously announced he is polling Nederland ISD personnel about their willingness to participate in an armed marshal program.

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

Nederland Police Chief Gary Porter has endorsed the idea of an armed marshal program that includes specific training.

Nederland School Board President Micah Mosley previously told Port Arthur Newsmedia that no teacher or staff member is going to be required to do something he or she doesn’t want to do in relation to firearms.

“This will be a purely 100 percent volunteer program,” Mosley said last month. “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.”