The Texas Legislature has begun to take up the politically sensitive issue of how to improve safety in the state's public schools as the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools, appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the wake of last month's Santa Fe High School shooting, is holding its first meetings at the state capitol, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
One area which appears to be gaining traction is expanding the 'School Marshal' program, where existing school district employees undergo special training from law enforcement.
The School Marshals must be trained on and demonstrate competence in 'physical security, improving the security of the campus, use of force, active shooter response, and weapon proficiency.'
"There is free school marshal training that is available now, essentially through August, to train any district staff who are being designated as marshals," Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said.
Marshals must meet the following qualifications:Appointing Entity selects candidate(s) for School Marshal.
- Candidate(s) must be an employee(s) of the school or college.
- Candidate(s) must hold a valid License to Carry, issued through the Texas Department of Public Safety. (Copy submitted to TCOLE).
- Candidate(s) must pass a psychological exam (TCOLE will provide this form).
- Candidate(s) attends/completes TCOLE approved 80 hour School Marshal course.
Morath says some districts, mainly in rural areas, have embraced the School Marshal program since it was approved by the Legislature in 2015, while many urban districts have not.
"This is not really just teachers, there are a variety of district staff who are marshals, from office administrators to campus maintenance personnel."
One issue that will be discussed today is whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in the classrooms to guard against an active shooter.
Senators also appeared to be strongly in favor of the increased use of metal detectors to keep guns out of school buildings.
Other issues that are expected to come up as the Committee's work continues today include whether school architecture should change to limit access to school buildings, and installing security cameras at more places inside the school buildings.
So far, nobody has discussed how all of these measures will be paid for.