When the Granbury School Board of Trustees holds its next regular meeting on Monday, July 18, extra security measures will be in place, including signs prohibiting firearms and possibly a metal detector, Superintendent Jeremy Glenn said.
The move to beef up security is due to Granbury police confirming that at least one person was armed at the board’s regular meeting on June 13.
According to Deputy Chief of Police Cliff Andrews, an investigation is underway into whether Cliff Criswell broke the law when he brought a firearm to that meeting. Andrews indicated that the investigation also includes statements that Criswell made from the podium that some viewed as threatening.
“Our investigation will look at all aspects of the incident,” he stated.
School Board president Barbara Townsend told the HCN that she was told that a second person was also seen to be armed at the meeting. She said that she does not know the person’s identity.
“One of our female administrators saw the gun and told one of the male teachers,” she wrote in an email to the newspaper on Monday, June 20. “He touched the man on the shoulder and told him it was time to leave, and the man left voluntarily with no incident. I do not believe it was reported to the police.”
According to a report titled “Firearms on School District Property” issued last January by the Texas Association of School Boards, whether a firearm is permitted depends on several factors, and state and federal laws “create a complex web of regulations related to the presence of firearms on school district property.”
No signage prohibiting firearms was posted at the GISD administration building on the day of the June 13 School Board meeting.
“From a district standpoint, we don’t believe that guns should ever be allowed inside school buildings,” Glenn said. “We feel like the law is clear on that. As it relates to postings, we will make sure that postings are up. The city has asked for those postings to be up on our school buildings, so they will be added.”
He continued, “Most people know, especially those that go through the concealed handgun course that you don’t bring a handgun into a school building and (into) a board meeting where kids are being recognized. That is considered a school activity.”
Students were present at the June 13 meeting.
Andrews told the HCN in an email, “It is illegal to carry a firearm on school grounds or at a school function.”
Criswell did not display the gun or threaten anyone with it when he spoke for approximately nine minutes from a podium near the dais where the school officials were seated. Each speaker is allotted a maximum of five minutes to speak, but Criswell refused to stop speaking after his time had elapsed.
Glenn said that security measures are in place at school board meetings and that such was the case at the heavily attended June gathering.
GISD Chief of Security Jeff Hastings was present and, according to Glenn, plainclothes security officers that included members of the police department and GISD’s marshal program were there as well.
In an email to the HCN, Andrews stated, “The Granbury Police received notification of this incident through the presence of an off-duty GPD officer at the school board meeting. The off-duty GPD officer noticed what appeared to be a firearm on a person in the meeting and notified the GISD security chief, who was also present during the meeting. The off-duty officer then notified an on-duty GPD officer. Two officers responded to the school board meeting at the request of the GPD off-duty officer to provide additional security.”
Andrews later clarified to the HCN that the person he referenced in the email was “visually identified” as Criswell.
He wrote that Criswell was not detained, and “left on his own and without escort from GPD or school staff.”
Andrews further stated, “It is unknown what type of firearm was present or if it was loaded.”
Criswell drew gasps and comments such as “wow” and “woah” when he named Glenn and every trustee except Melanie Graft and stated, “We have profile sheets on you. We know what you do. We know where you live.”
He referenced Graft and a recent executive session, and told the officials, “You tried to rip her apart.”
Criswell said that such a thing will never happen again and added, “You’ll be in trouble if you do, I can assure you.”
Some in the audience applauded Criswell when he concluded his statements. At least one person commented that his remarks were “free speech.”
Trustee Courtney Gore was absent from the June meeting, but posted about the incident on social media
“Tonight, threats were made against me, every board member (except one) and our superintendent,” the post on her Facebook page stated in part. “We were individually called out by name, told we had profile sheets made on each of us and that we would be dealt with accordingly. THIS IS NOT OK.”
Jackson told the HCN, “It’s extremely disheartening to see some of my neighbors and friends applauding his speech and especially when he got to the point of making a threat, you know, the audible applause. It was just extremely disappointing and disturbing to me.”
He said that “veiled threats” at a public meeting mark “a whole new low.”
Jackson said, “It’s just inexcusable. No matter what our differences are, this just shouldn’t be happening in Granbury.”
Glenn told the HCN, “It’s obviously concerning, when someone makes that type of statement about elected officials. It’s my understanding that law enforcement is aware, and we will let them investigate it and see how it plays out.”
Townsend said that her husband has been attending school board meetings lately because they have become more volatile, not just in Granbury but in other cities as well.
Topics such as Critical Race Theory and books in school libraries that some have called “pornographic” have led to emotionally charged confrontations.
“I’ve been on the school board seven years and he never came to school board meetings until recently,” Townsend said of her husband. “And it’s because he worries.”
She continued, “It makes me sad. I feel like we have tried to do a good job for the school district. Do I wish those books were not in the library? Absolutely. Absolutely. And we are going to do what we need to do, but we’re going to do it legally.”
Jackson said that although he did not request an escort to his vehicle, he was nevertheless given one after the May and June meetings. He said that he is concerned for the safety of his family and fellow trustees.
Jackson stated, “Public service, it just isn’t worth it anymore.”