On December 14, 2012, a single assailant walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School, then shot and killed 26 people, 20 children and 6 school faculty members, before committing suicide when first responders arrived at the school. It was the most deadly shooting at a public elementary school and the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Due to these recent school shootings, school safety and the protection of our children have become critical issues of concern for parents, administrators and lawmakers. However, there are limited school safety options for school districts in Texas. Some larger school districts have a dedicated police departments or utilize School Resource Officers (SROs). Another option implemented in a few schools is commonly referred to as the “Guardian Plan,” which allows teachers who have a concealed handgun license to carry a firearm in school buildings and on the grounds.
The Protection of Texas Children Act, authored by Texas State Representative Jason Villalba and passed in 2013, provides an additional option known as the School Marshal program, creating a new subset of law enforcement to serve as a last line of defense should an armed attacker threaten the lives of our children in a public school. This is an optional program that, should a school district choose to participate, provides for a rigorous standard of training (not less than 80 hours performed by TCOLE certified instructors), and certification to expand law enforcement into schools. This is an additional school security option for school districts to consider implementing and does not affect a school district's authority to utilize another option.
Session Learning Objectives:
- This program is optional for schools, not mandatory. The legislation provided an additional option for school districts to consider when weighing security options.
- Many elementary schools do not have any armed personnel or trained law enforcement because district security resources are allocated mostly to high school and middle schools where the risks of fights, gangs, drug usage, and other violations are more prevalent.
- School Marshal training includes a mental health evaluation, active shooter and emergency situation training, and firearms proficiency requirements, in each case, as developed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).
- The legislation provided access for school districts to law enforcement caliber training that they would otherwise not have access to.
- School Marshals are only authorized to act in response to an active shooter or other immediate threat to human life on school grounds. Their firearm is to remain locked in a safe, within immediate reach, if he or she works in a classroom or in the direct presence of children.
- School Marshals are covert - known only to the head school administrator and local law enforcement.