The sign is large and unabashedly direct, like the state’s collective attitude. It’s white, nailed to two sturdy wooden posts, and offers a bold-lettered warning.
This year, our teachers might be packing heat, it says, and they’re not afraid to use it.
In this town, in this state, in 2016, it still looks a lot like the wild, wild West.
The sign is new this school year and stands outside the Medina Independent School District, home to 300 kindergarten to 12th grade students in a small, rural town about an hour northwest of San Antonio. The school isn’t under any particular threat, school board member James Lindstrom told CNN, and there have been no recent instances of violence worth noting.
The sign came about, he said, because of the “general environment nationally.”
Guns in schools – from pre-K classrooms to university lecture halls – has been just one in a long list of contentious topics that often arise during the national gun rights debate simmering across the country. After 20 children and six adults were fatally shot by a gunman armed with assault weapons at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, gun advocates, and even some government officials, claimed the massacre could have been prevented if the school personnel inside had been carrying guns.
A national movement to arm teachers followed.
Most recently, in the same state the Medina ISD calls home, lawmakers made it legal for teachers and students to carry concealed weapons in university classrooms, outraging some campus groups, particularly at the University of Texas at Austin, where students have launched several colorful protests over the last year.
Just this week, singer Ray LaMontagne canceled a concert on the UT-Austin campus over the campus-carry law.
In Medina, however, the school’s warning sign and potential gun-toting teachers hasn’t seemed to unnerve many parents.
“Schools have been a target for, for lack of a better word, crazy people,” Jillian Sides, whose two sons attend the school, told ABC affiliate KSAT 12. “I’m perfectly fine with it.”
News station KENS 5 interviewed community members at the Medina high school football game and got a round of similarly enthusiastic endorsements:
“I think it’s great,” one woman said.
“I think it’s a good idea,” a man in a cowboy hat remarked. “I have no problem with our teachers being armed.”
“I thought, well it’s good that our kids can be protected,” a third woman said.
Genie Strickland, to KSAT 12, put it this way: “I think you’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do.”
In full, the sign reads, “Attention, please be aware that the staff at Medina ISD may be armed and will use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.”
District Superintendent Penny White wouldn’t say if or how many teachers were actually carrying firearms in the building. The sign only indicates they “may” be armed.
“We don’t divulge anything about our safety plan, because it would compromise the plan,” White told KSAT 12.
Her hope, she told the TV station, is that potential bad guys might “think twice” before entering her school to harm someone. The school is rural and remote, she said, about 20 to 25 minutes away from the nearest law enforcement agency in Bandera – the county seat and “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
“You never know if there’s a transient or someone who has zeroed in on harming a child,” White told KSAT 12.
The board of trustees decided to erect the sign after a year of discussion, the superintendent said.