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A New Law Has Some Texas Schools Requiring An Armed Personnel

Journey Jones, 10, was back-to-school shopping with his mom this summer when he asked for a bulletproof backpack to protect him in case of a shooting.

“It could happen anytime,” he said.

His mom, MaryAnn Jones, has five kids set to attend school in Lovejoy. However, safety concerns had Jones and her wife considering not putting their 5-year-old triplets into elementary school at the district. They ultimately did.

Jones, a former police officer, does not like that Lovejoy ISD utilizes a school marshal program that allows campus staffers to be armed. Anyone can carry a gun in hand, she said, but training and experience is necessary when it comes to using it.

More Texas teachers, administrators and others outside of law enforcement will be carrying guns when school starts this month because a new state law requires armed personnel on every public campus starting Sept. 1. The change represents legislators’ most significant response to last year’s Uvalde massacre, where 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary.

A nationwide police shortage and lack of significant new funding has schools across Texas struggling to hire additional staff to protect campuses that don’t already have school resource officers, namely elementaries.

To meet the new law, more Texas districts are considering teachers and other employees to be school marshals or guardians, which allow staff to be armed.

If the district used school marshals, it would join with other Collin County districts, including Princeton and Lovejoy.

Across Texas, there were 34 school marshals in 2018, the same year of the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting. That number grew to 256 marshals across 62 districts as of May 2022, after new state grants and a law lifting the cap on marshals.

Now, the state has 318 registered school marshals across 77 districts, and has seen an uptick in interest since the new legislation, said Gretchen Grigsby, director of government relations for the Texas Commission On Law Enforcement.

Some districts are still hoping to meet the law with dedicated security staff.

Mark Quinn, the Garland ISD’s director of security, knows he’s in a competitive market as he seeks to fill 40 armed security positions for elementary schools. Those staffers and other additional safety measures will cost the district $1.5 million.

“We, along with probably every other school district in the state, are going to be scrambling trying to hire armed officers,” he said.

A loud scream. A few shots fired. The men whipped out guns and pointed them to the simulation screen.

“School marshal!” one of them yelled with a booming voice. “Don’t shoot! School marshal!”

Thirteen men and one woman had traveled across Texas in June to participate in the 80-hour school marshal training at Tarrant County College. If they passed, they would be able to bring a weapon with them onto campus.

School marshals must be trained by a law enforcement academy approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Weapon proficiency, campus security, when to use force, how to respond to an active shooter and the history of school shootings are covered.

Marshals must have a license to carry, pass a psychological exam and complete a 16-hour course every two years after their initial training.

At this summer’s training, candidates practiced knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot in an active shooter scenario. They rehearsed busting/prying open doors with sledgehammers to breach classrooms.

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