The 2021-22 school year will mark a historic moment, as Devine ISD becomes a Guardian Program campus. This program provides select teachers and staff with the training to carry a concealed handgun and other medical training to provide immediate response in the event of an emergency. As part of the Devine ISD Security Counsel, Donny Whitaker and CJ James are overseeing the training for the Guardian Program. The program allows selected personnel to carry a gun on or about their person on all campuses and school district facilities including the stadium, gym, etc.
Whitaker and James both have over 25 years experience in the field and assures the district that all candidates have undergone a rigorous, extensive training. Upon completion, the guidelines called on these experts to make recommendations on selections of our district’s guardians.
“Every one of the candidates came out for the right reasons and have put in many hours on evenings and weekends to do this–to protect ‘their kids’–not the kids at home, but to protect the kids in their classrooms and schools,” Whitaker said. “Teachers, admin, and school staff who applied to be a part of this program have undergone extensive training in everything from close quarters combat with handguns, tactical experience, to extensive stop-bleed medical training so they can better protect kids in the event of an active attack.”
The selected guardians will remain anonymous in an effort to best protect our students, staff, and schools. The number of guardians will also remain unknown by the general public, but the program will provide coverage on every campus of the district. Over 40 employees originally applied to be part of the program, but the number of “guardians” who followed through with the process and will be selected to protect our schools will not be released for safety reasons.
“Knowing there’s a good guy there to stop the bad guy at every campus, that is a good feeling. I’m glad to see it. As a parent as well as having a background in law enforcement, I am confident in the guardians I have recommended to the school board. Nobody wants to do what has to be done in a situation where you have an active attack, but I am glad we will now have guardian(s) on every campus to provide immediate response,” Whitaker said.
“I have done school trainings for many years, and now school staff will have the tools to better react,” Whitaker said. “It is hard to tell someone to stand there at the door of a classroom with a baseball bat when somebody’s coming at them with a shotgun.”
Whitaker assures parents and the district that “This is not a one-time train and turn them loose program. This is an ongoing program with continuing education on the skills needed to respond to situations like those we are training for.”
Whitaker notes that only those personnel selected for the program are allowed to carry on campus. Otherwise, school districts remain a no-gun zone except for law enforcement.
Harold ISD in West Texas became the state’s first school district to implement the “Guardian Plan” in 2008. The News interviewed Mr. David Thweatt several years ago and we recall him explaining how the program works and his view of why it was important to a rural school district. Hundreds of school districts have since modeled their response plans after this program.
By Kayleen Holder