AUSTIN, Texas - Since June, 150 new school marshals have been certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. The exercise in August, at a Pflugerville school, was one of seven classes the commission held.
Tuesday, during his inaugural address, Governor Greg Abbott didn't specifically call for more armed school employees. He did make it clear though that security is a top legislative priority.
"We will provide a better education for our students. We will make our schools safer."
Thursday, at a ceremony for the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, Governor Abbott didn't address any of his legislative initiatives. There was this light moment with new hall inductee - Senator Judith Zaffirini. "Governor may you continue to be blessed and may you be inspired to see the light and not to Veto any of my bills,” joked Zaffirini (D) Laredo.
A Zaffirini bill that could make it to the governor's desk is SB 53.
It would make 911 calls by text messaging possible.
That bill is among nearly 2 dozen filed so far that could help improve security at Texas schools.
Some of the most notable Legislative proposals include:
- Giving school districts $100 million from the Rainy Day Fund to buy safety equipment.
- Requiring metal detectors in schools.
- Installing medical triage kits.
- Creating intervention programs
- Allowing charter schools to hire armed resource officers.
Senator Donna Campbell (R) San Antonio and Representative Donna Howard (D) Austin both said safety legislation should go beyond providing new equipment and training. "It’s always better to take care of something proactive and get in front of something before we have to take care of a disaster or crisis afterwards,” said Campbell.
Howard said lawmakers last year got a clear message regarding programs to identify behavior that may be a precursor to a violent outburst. "We had an interim hearing where we heard from the Santa Fe superintendent and president of their school board they talked about how they put metal detectors in place but they really did that more for the psychological comfort they gave the community, but they didn't feel that was going to have as much of a deterrent as focusing on the mental health issues they wanted to put in place,” said Howard.
The shooting last year at Santa Fe High School is expected to be used to justify the passage of many of the bills. One specifically is SB 133. The bill from Senator Juan Hinojosa (D) McAllen calls for May 18th, the day of the shooting, the be designated as the “School Shooting Victims Remembrance Day.”
There are some bills that could amend the School Marshal Program as well.
The most notable bill allows marshals to carry their guns at all times. With the legislation, marshals won’t have to lock their guns up when in a classroom with kids.