G’town in national spotlight

By Wayne Gates – 

When the Georgetown School District voted to allow staff members to carry guns last year, it generated some local media attention.
The spotlight is a little brighter these days following the latest school shooting in Florida.
Superintendent Christopher Burrows has received calls from the New York Times, MSNBC, FOX News and the Associated Press about the district gun policy in the past week.
He has also gotten calls from multiple school districts about how the program was implemented.
“Several schools across the country and several news stations have tried to gain access to our story,” Burrows said.
“The media wants to dig into the specifics of the safety plan, while the schools have tried to understand how to implement it.”
Burrows said he declined an invitation to be interviewed live on the air on MSNBC.
“This is not about media attention or creating a political debate where people can play monday morning quarterback. It’s about a decision to keep 1060 kids and 130 staff members and our community at large safe and providing a quicker response time than we would have with no armed people in the building,” Burrows said.
“These bigger media outlets are just looking to sell their show. I’m not interested in being a sacrificial lamb.”
He said a phone conversation with a reporter from the New York Times reinforced his decision.
“I felt a little put out by the phone call because it was not open to dialogue. When the lady from the New York Times reached out, it was very evident that she was looking for a story that could sell papers. That just kind of turned me off, because that’s not what our safety plan decision was about. It’s about keeping our kids safe and creating a minimal response time in case an armed intruder happens.”
He added that the focus of other school districts was different than the media outlets.
“Some of the people who called were staff members, some of them were resource officers, that have reached out to ask for board resolutions and frequently asked questions. They are just trying to learn from us,” Burrows said.
“I’ve had school districts contact me throughout the year for information, but nothing like this past week. I’ll bet my office has received 25 to 30 phone calls from media and other districts.”
Burrows said that the district is viewing the armed staff program as a success.
“This is really one of the better solutions out there. Educators want to protect the kids they are responsible for, whatever it takes,” he said.
“Educators have that protective instinct for their kids, so it only makes sense to give them a fighting chance to survive and to save kids lives.”
Burrows said that the program goes beyond some staff members being armed.
“We trained 90 percent of our staff to respond to a traumatic event of this nature. Not everybody is comfortable carrying a gun, but everyone wants to help.”
Burrows said that the community has largely been supportive.
“I’ve received e-mails and phone calls of support and of concern. I would say in our district, we get ten expressions of support for every one of concern.”
Some of those expressions of support are more than verbal.
“A local non-profit organization contacted me and said that they would like to donate $1000 to our arming staff initiative to help pay for ammunition or training. That was an endorsement that was unexpected,” Burrows said.