The controversial policy of allowing armed marshals at public schools could soon be a reality for some Texas school districts. Under a new law passed during the most recent legislative session, school administrators may designate a trained employee to act as school marshal, authorized to carry a concealed handgun to respond in emergency situations.
Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 1009, also known as the Protection of Children Act, into law this June. Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, penned the bill in response to the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
Similar to federal air marshals, the identity of the school marshal would remain confidential. Only school administrators, local law enforcement and the Texas Department of Public Safety would know who the designated employee was.
"Our vision is that the vice principal during the summer will take time for a couple of weeks to learn to be trained as a marshal," Villalba said in a previous interview. "It could also be a teacher, it could be a principal, it could be a coach, it could even be a custodian. Anybody who is at the campus already and who is already employed by the school can volunteer in this role."
Beginning in January 2014, districts will be able to enroll employees in the school marshal training program being designed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE).
Laura LeBlanc, Public Information Custodian of Records for TCLEOSE, says the program will include a mental health evaluation, active shooter response training and firearm proficiency.
“This may be beneficial to smaller agencies that do not have their own ISD police department,” LeBlanc says. “Of course there are agencies throughout the state that would assist the school districts with [emergency situations], but a school marshal would actually be there in place on the school campus.”
But the school marshal program does not seem to be as much of a necessity for Central Texas districts, many of whom employ campus peace officers or have their own police departments in place.
Manor ISD superintendent Kevin Brackmeyer says the district has no plans to change its current security policies to incorporate the school marshal program.
“Most discipline programs are reactive programs,” Brackemeyer says. “This is more of a preventative, engaging and productive program that we use. We feel very confident that our school resource officers are very responsive to any safety needs or security concerns for students or staff.”
At Lake Travis ISD, administrators conducted extensive campus safety audits following the Sandy Hook shooting. Marco Alvarado, Lake Travis ISD Director of Communications, Media and Community Relations, says the district worked to tighten its security systems and address parents' concerns on student safety.
“After that one incident, public awareness was at an all-time high regarding school safety and security," Alvarado says. "The administration felt it was a really good time, as unfortunate as that incident was, to learn from it."
Austin ISD shares similar sentiments. The school district says it will not implement HB 1009, but this academic year it has added six additional School Resource Officers, raising the total number of district officers to 75. Hutto ISD also added a fourth resource officer from the Hutto Police Department, according to Emily Grobe, Public Information Officer
Meanwhile, other Central Texas district aren't making any changes to their school security plans. Officials for Eanes, Georgetown, Leander, Pflugerville, and Round Rock school districts say they do not plan to implement school marshals, nor are they increasing the number of resource officers currently in place.