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Texas now requires armed security on all school campuses

Two months into the school year, districts large and small can't find the officers to meet the requirement.
Texas now requires armed security on all school campuses
Posted at 3:03 PM, Oct 25, 2023

Dallas Independent School District, the second largest school district in Texas, is hiring security officers.

"We're providing officers at every campus," said Dallas Police Chief John Lawton.

A new statewide mandate, implemented on Sept. 1, requires one armed security officer for every campus.

Two months into the school year, districts large and small can't find the officers to meet the requirement.

"That is not an option for us to be able to supply an officer on every single campus," said James Hill, the human resources director for the Frisco City Council.

Lawton said he started the year looking to hire about 150 more officers.

He says the same staffing shortages that are impacting city and state officers are making it more difficult to meet the mandate.

"You'll hear chiefs from, not just within school districts, but also within municipalities, police departments, county — it's challenging to find qualified candidates," said Lawton. 

Police departments across the country are struggling with recruitment and retention.

According to the Police Executive Research Forum, nationally officer resignations were up 47% last year compared to 2019 while retirements jumped 19%.

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Other states like Kentucky and Florida have struggled to meet similar mandates that require an officer at every campus.

Rafael Perea, the public safety training center coordinator at Tarrant County College, is training an alternative for Texas.

"You see the children there, you hear the screaming, you get information. And so it puts that reality into the scenario," said Perea. 

The Texas School Marshal program that Perea leads is one of three in the state — looking to take school district employees — teachers, principals, librarians — and train them to be armed campus security.

"All of them, 100%, want to be here, and they want to help children, and they want to protect children," said Perea. 

While the Marshal Program was created in 2013, it's taken on a new importance since Texas issued its armed school security mandate.

The mandate was passed largely in response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.

"The more people that you have to protect children, the better. That's my opinion, right? But you got to have the right person, and you got to have the right training. So if you're gonna do it, let's do it right," Perea said. "Will I ever say let's arm everybody? Absolutely not."

Perea says training includes psychological assessment, weapons training and active shooter response, among other things.

Plano ISD in North Dallas announced they would be using the marshal program to meet the new mandate.

"What we're looking for is a background in law enforcement. Some people have a background in military — things that that kind of fit," said Kevin Keating, the chief of safety and security operations in Plano.

Keating says there just isn't enough police to meet the mandate.

"We did meet with police chiefs and city managers. And those police officers, if we wanted to do that in elementary schools, simply don't exist," he said. 

For now, state officials have not outlined a penalty for districts that don't comply with the mandate.

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