Bill on number of Texas school marshals passes out of Senate heads to House

Following last May's deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School, a bill has passed the State Senate and is now headed to the House that would allow schools more flexibility when it comes to the number of armed marshals—trained school employees—on campus.

Current legislation allows one school marshal per 200 students, or one marshal per building.

From the Texas Tribune:

“School districts need to be able to tailor the school marshal program for their unique needs,” State Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Conroe Republican who authored Senate Bill 244, said about the legislation last week. “SB 244 removes those limitations in statute on the school marshal program to accommodate the unique needs of districts across the state. Each individual district would be able to make those choices on what’s best for them.”

Texas School Safety Center's Kathy Martinez-Prather attended the round table discussions on school safety with the governor days after the deadly Santa Fe shooting.

"Should school districts choose to implement the school marshal program, it's very important that they engage in regular training and drilling with their local first responders to ensure that, in the event an incident happens, that that coordinated response is executed successfully," said Martinez-Prather.

She said the approach to school safety needs to be taken from a comprehensive perspective, to include prevention, like identifying early warning signs of students in crisis.

Martinez-Prather said this is one of many options.

School districts should consider all possibilities when it comes to their emergency operations planning process in their communities with the resources they have.

"Not every school district is going to be able to have a metal detector at every door or an armed guard at every single door," said Martinez-Prather.

She said there's more legislation that would require every school district to have behavioral threat assessment teams.

Houston Federation of Teacher’s President Zeph Cappo said the school marshal program is the wrong direction in the first place.

He said the Senate is following ideological, rather than research-based approach.

“We don’t more individuals with guns on campus. We need to have better controls about what’s happening, better training and understanding of how staff and students should react in emergency situations,” said Cappo.

He said their teacher’s don’t want to carry weapons. They’d rather have their classrooms be safe space with steel reinforced doors, locked from the inside, desk and tables can serve as safety barriers to survive an active shooter situation.

He added they need better access to the trained and licensed peace officers.

Both said there needs to be better availability to mental health care and services to those at risk.

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