After recent talks of arming select employees in some school districts, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, filed a bill to allow districts to appoint school marshals.
Trained employees would be the only ones carrying guns to protect students.
HB-1009, also called the Protection of Texas Children Act, would allow marshals with proper training and certification to use lethal force if necessary. The bill comes just weeks after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called for state funding to train school employees who would carry concealed firearms.
“Whoever is serving as the school marshal acts immediately,” Villalba told the Texas Tribune. “The whole point of this is to reduce response times from minutes down to seconds.”
Under Texas law, school districts have the authority to allow employees to carry concealed guns on campus. A handful of districts, including Harrold ISD, a small district with 125 students; Union Grove ISD, with about 750 students; and Van ISD, with about 2,000 students, allow concealed carry. Each of the districts said law enforcement is too far away to respond quickly enough in case of an active shooter situation.
Cleburne ISD at its January meeting also discussed the possibility of allowing concealed carry, but school board trustees held off on a decision until speaking further with employees, parents and community members. Superintendent Tim Miller recently said he, as a teacher, would be comfortable carrying a firearm to protect his students. However, he said, he didn’t feel comfortable enough with the overall pros and cons to make that recommendation to trustees.
Since that meeting, Miller began discussing safety and security measures with district employees.
“The campus’ input to date lists additional law enforcement officers among the top three responses to campus safety and security,” he said.
CISD has several armed Cleburne Police Department officers and two deputies from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office that split time at different campuses. Many of the comments from community members have been in favor of expanding the number of armed personnel.
Burleson ISD, a fiscal peer of CISD, has not discussed adding more SROs, said Brad Lewis, assistant superintendent for administrative and student services.
“We’re interested in discussions that lead to improved student safety, whatever that looks like,” he said. “We try to be proactive in our approach in the fact that we have security cameras, fences, secured entrances and presence of the student resource officers. It’s such a multidimensional conversation. There are many, many angles to increasing student safety.
“We believe that there needs to be lots of collaborative conversations between school officials, law enforcement and lots of experts across the state and nation to figure out exactly what that looks like and to offer a comprehensive look so that we can offer a first class safety program.”
Similar to protocols CISD officials considered, Villalba’s bill regulates who would have guns and puts strict measures on their training. Marshals would also have to undergo mental health evaluations and extensive training in various types of emergency situations, including active shooter. Like suggestions outlined by CISD, the marshals — there would be one for every 400 students — would be unidentifiable except to a select few district officials, as well as be responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own weapons.
Such protection plans are not only occurring in Texas.
Stan Bingham, North Carolina Republican state senator, introduced legislation Jan. 31 that would allow local school boards or charter schools to choose their own marshals. Different from the Texas bill, North Carolina marshals wouldn’t carry a gun at school, but would have access to one in case of an emergency.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.