The groups that will train Texans in the state's controversial school marshals program – allowing an undercover, armed staff member on school campuses – gathered in San Marcos today.
"You’re not going to see someone walking around looking like Joe SWAT, but a normal teacher," said Boake Slape, one of the 18 law enforcement trainers at the training facility. "You won’t even know. But if a problem is going to happen, they can respond much quicker than a police department or sheriff’s department can."
The bill, approved in the 2013 legislative session, allows schools to appoint one secret school marshal on campus for every 400 students. Slape says it gives schools options, especially schools that can’t afford their own police force.
Marshals can be anyone on campus, from teachers and administrators to custodians. The author of the marshals bill, State Rep. Jason Villalba (R- Dallas), met with groups on this first day of training.
"We want to have somebody there who can respond within 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 50 seconds," Villalba said. "And this is what we believe we’re going to be able to do."
Villalba noted marshals could be especially important for charter schools, which right now cannot hire their own police force.
School marshal training is expected to start this summer. It will be 80 hours and includes a background check, mental evaluation, firearms training and drills. Villalba is not saying which school districts are interested in the program, but so far nearly all Central Texas school districts say they will not participate.
Texas is the first state to implement a school marshal bill, but Villalba says other states have expressed interest in the program.