Would a School Marshal and/or campus “Guardian” deter mass violence on Texas school campuses?
After the recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, Texas school districts are putting a major focus onto increased safety procedures during the summer break. One option many districts are turning to is arming teachers.
Back in 2013, Texas enacted its Protection of Children Act Program that allows individual school districts to have armed individuals on campus.
One provision of the act allows a district to opt into the School Marshal Program and designate one staff member for every 200 students to be armed on campus, following intensive law enforcement style training and psychological testing. School Marshals that have regular, direct contact with students, however, are not allowed to carry a gun. Instead, they are permitted to have a secured gun within ready access only in a circumstance that would permit the use of deadly force.
School districts do not reveal the identity of its School Marshals for security reasons, or whether there are any Marshals on campus at all. Therefore, the number of school districts that participate in the School Marshal Program is uncertain.
Another provision in the act allows schools to authorize greater access to firearms on campus. Under the Guardian Plan, a district can grant anyone, including employees, permission to carry firearms on campuses through a contract. A guardian basically is there for mainly dealing with school shootings, whereas the Marshal has more of a law enforcement position.
According to Dax González, a spokesperson for the Texas Association of School Boards, few districts chose to go the route of a School Marshal and instead opted for the more flexibility provided by the Guardian Program. The best estimate is that between 20 and 50 districts utilize the Marshal Program.
The Association revealed, as of February 2018, approximately 172 school districts allowed a teacher, coach, or other individual to carry a concealed weapon while at work. In addition to districts utilizing the School Marshal or Guardian Program, about 150 districts have their own police departments, and more than 250 districts without police have school resource officers.
Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February of this year, another 45 school districts have opted to allow staff to carry a firearm, bringing the total number to 217, roughly 20 percent out of all the school districts in the Lone Star State. González said the number “may continue to grow as districts continue to revise policies” in the aftermath of the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston that left 10 dead.