By Alex Samuels, The Texas Tribune May 21, 2019
The Texas Senate moved Tuesday to abolish the cap on how many trained school teachers and support staff — known as school marshals — can carry guns on public school campuses, nearly an hour after the House voted to approve a separate and sweeping school safety bill.
Under the marshal program, school personnel, whose identities are kept secret from all but a few local officials, are trained to act as armed peace officers in the absence of law enforcement. Currently, schools that participate in the program can only designate one marshal per 200 students or one marshal per building.
Lawmakers began discussing the program — and several other school safety measures — after a deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School last year.
“Last summer, we heard how successful the school marshal program has been been,” said state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, the Senate sponsor of the bill and author of a similar piece of legislation that passed the upper chamber last month. “We also heard how we can improve the program.”
Creighton said the bill would not force school districts to implement a marshal program but would give them the flexibility to decide how many marshals they want to appoint should they choose to participate. Advocacy groups, though, are wary of increasing the number of guns in Texas classrooms and have long sounded the alarm about the disparate impacts of the potential new state law.
“If we put an unlimited number of guns in our schools, we’re only creating an unlimited number of potential mistakes that could harm our children,” said Hilary Whitfield, volunteer leader with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Hefner’s bill is the latest piece of legislation related to the marshal program the Texas Senate has advanced this session. Last month, it approved another measure by Republican state Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury that would allow local school boards to let their marshals carry concealed guns on campuses instead of being required to keep them locked up. The chamber also approved a bill by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, that would give school marshals immunity from lawsuits for any “reasonable action” taken to maintain safety. Both Birdwell’s and Hughes’ measures failed to gain traction in the Texas House, however.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/05/21/texas-senate-marshal-program-school-safety-hb-1387/.
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