A complaint was filed with the State Board for Educator Certification alleging that a teacher's certification was subject to sanctions for carrying a firearm on school grounds. The teacher requested a hearing with the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
The teacher was assigned to
an alternative school designed to give students who are two to three years
behind their age group in school the chance to catch up. The
teacher testified that, because the disciplinary alternative school was
fully enrolled, students on his campus could misbehave without fear of
being referred to the DAEP. He also testified that a new principal’s more
lenient discipline had enabled students to harass and assault teachers without
consequence. He testified that, because he had no assigned classroom, an
assistant principal asked him to help the security officers in getting students
to class during transitions. The campus was primarily portable buildings
connected by sidewalks. He said he was told to make sure students did not
linger between or behind the portables. He was not told to restrain students
and was not classified as a security officer.
The teacher testified that he
began bringing a gun with him to school after the Parkland school shooting
in Florida. He read on the internet that the Texas governor was allowing
persons licensed to carry to bring guns on campus. He is licensed to carry a
handgun. He testified that he was not told at his concealed-carry training
that he could not bring a gun to school, only that he must obey signs restricting
gun possession; other witnesses testified that their concealed-carry classes
taught them that they were not permitted to take guns onto school grounds. The
teacher testified that he did not know that bringing a gun on campus was
against school district policy. He said that he never thought that
carrying a gun on campus was a bad idea.
One day the teacher brought a
loaded handgun to school, carrying it in his pants pocket, unholstered. While
confronting a student who was not getting to class and impermissibly using
a cellphone, he ran or moved quickly toward the student. The gun fell out of
his pocket without the teacher noticing. A school security officer who had
followed the teacher saw the gun fall out. The officer picked up the gun
and took it to the office. The teacher was arrested and charged with a
felony for possessing a weapon on a school campus. He pleaded not guilty and
received pretrial diversion.
The school district police
commander testified at the hearing that the teacher was honest about carrying
the gun. However, the teacher acted recklessly by carrying the gun in his
pocket. Another officer testified that guns should be holstered for safety
purposes, and the fact that the teacher's gun came out of his pocket while he
was running showed the recklessness of carrying the weapon unholstered.
The administrative law judge
noted that teachers are not allowed to carry guns on the teacher's campus. The Employee
Handbook states that “employees, visitors, and students are prohibited from
bringing firearms, knives, clubs or other prohibited weapons onto school
premises (i.e., building or portion of a building) or any grounds or building
where a school-sponsored activity takes place.” The Employee Handbook also
required that he “comply with state regulations, written local school board
policies, and other state and federal laws.” Further, the district's board
policies contain standards of conduct that “prohibit the use, possession, or
display of any firearm ... on District property at all times.” The district allows
only its police officers to carry firearms on campus. The teacher did not have authorization to carry a firearm on campus, and the district had no rule that authorized him to do so.
After hearing the evidence, the administrative law judge recommended that the teacher's certification be revoked for failure to comply with the Educator's Code of Ethics, which requires that teachers comply with board policies and state and federal law, and for violating the criminal statute that prohibits a person from intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possessing or going with a firearm on the physical premises of a school.
After considering the recommendation, the
State Board of Educator Certification ordered that the teacher's certification