Nearly a decade ago, Texas lawmakers created the school marshal program, a way for educators to carry weapons inside schools. It was the state’s rapid-fire legislative response to an unthinkable national horror 2,000 miles away when 20 first graders and six adults were shot and killed in a Sandy Hook, Connecticut, classroom just before Christmas 2012.

“Whoever is serving as the school marshal acts immediately,” state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, said at the time, explaining how his bill would protect Texans in active shooter situations. “The whole point of this is to reduce response times from minutes down to seconds.”

The legislation empowers school districts to identify employees with a license to carry a firearm to volunteer as school protectors. Those individuals would undergo an 80-hour training and psychological exam, granting them access to a gun on campus. It is otherwise against federal law to have a firearm in a school zone.

But since the bill’s passage into law in 2013, just 84 school districts have opted into the program, a sliver of the more than 1,200 school districts across the state. Of those districts, only 361 people have ever become a licensed school marshal across a state that has 9,000 campuses and more than 369,000 public school teachers.

Now, as Texas grapples with the Uvalde school shooting in which 19 children and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman wielding two assault rifles, state leaders are again pointing to the school marshal program as a way to improve school security.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath urging him to find ways to encourage more school districts to increase the number of school marshals and other law enforcement officers on school grounds.

“In the wake of this devastating crime, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our schools provide a safe and secure environment for the children of Texas,” Abbott wrote.

Since the shooting in Uvalde, the Bosque County sheriff has requested school districts in his county just northwest of Waco adopt the program. Meanwhile, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, also known as TCOLE, which oversees the program, has seen an uptick in the number of requests for information about it since the shooting, a spokesperson for the licensing agency said Friday.

Yet education advocates argue that the fact that the voluntary school marshal program has had so few takers over the years signals that school districts and teachers are not interested in leaning on educators to deter mass shooting events.

“If we have a school marshal program already and districts are not taking advantage of it, maybe it makes more sense to figure out why districts don’t want to do that rather than push another opportunity,” said Jayne Serna, a veteran Austin-area secondary school teacher who now teaches at Austin Community College.

Pre-kindergarten teacher Michelle Cardenas says safety is one reason she is not interested.

“I don’t want a gun around my students,” she said. “We already have to pay for our own professional development and our own school supplies. There’s no money, but yet they’re going to find money to train and arm teachers?”

But Villalba, who is no longer in the Legislature, blamed the low participation on the state’s decision not to allocate funding for the marshal program to help districts purchase the firearms or provide stipends to marshals. He also said the state did not properly educate districts that the option was available.

“I’m heartsick that we haven’t implemented this plan in a more robust fashion,” he told The Texas Tribune. “Unfortunately, it takes a catalyst like Uvalde and Santa Fe before action is taken. Hopefully this will be a moment when the state decides to mandate a program and provide necessary funding to pay for it.”

TCOLE, the agency that both oversees the school marshal program and provides training for it, is legally prohibited from releasing the names of the districts that have school marshals. Only a parent can make a written request to their child’s school to find out if there is a marshal on campus.

This story has been edited for space. Read the full version at www.texastribune.org/2022/06/07/texas-school-marshal-program.

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(2) entries

AMP

More Liberal BS from School Administrators. They would rather see only the criminals armed.

natives5

I know many, many teachers who do not want guns in their classrooms or on campus. And they are not liberals.

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