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Creating Marshals to Watch Over Schools

Texas lawmakers have rallied around the idea of making elementary schools safer. There have been calls to allow anyone with a concealed handgun license to bring guns onto public school campuses. Or for teachers to get concealed carry licenses.

The latest idea comes from a bill filed by State Representative JasonVillalba (R-Dallas). He wanted to know what schools and professional school security organizations wanted.

“And we spoke with them and we took their input. We understood what their concerns were, what their issues were. And we tried to craft that and integrate their comments into our bill," Villalba said.

He filed a bill to create a new law enforcement certification: School Marshal. These marshals would be trained to respond during a situation where the lives of school children were in danger.

“I mean we’re talking about a break glass in case of emergency situation," Villalba said. "The only instance where these school marshals would have authority to act is in that situation where children’s lives are being threatened or taken."

School Marshals' identities would be secret to all except a school administrator and local law enforcement. They would spend at least 80 hours training, including shooter, legal and emergency training and undergo a psychological evaluation. But it would be up to the individual to pay for the certification.

"Now a school district, if they determine that they want an individual like this serving at their school, can at their own discretion reimburse the individual for the training. Or they can provide higher compensation for this individual," Villalba said.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune /

House Bill 1009 does not provide any state funding for school marshal certification. That’s where another school safety bill may fit in. Last month a bipartisan group announced they planned to file a bill that would allow local school districts to create a funding mechanism to pay for security measures.

“What we’re trying to do is give local communities a choice," said the bill's co-author, State Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands). "We are not passing a tax. We would leave it up to those local communities to decide if they wanted to fund this either through a sales tax if available or a property tax."

If both bills become law, districts across the state could ask voters to create a school safety property tax. And then part of that money could be used to certify staff members to be school marshals.

The bill does not preclude a school district from pursuing other armed security solutions. Villalba believes more training may allay any concerns districts or parents might have about allowing guns on campus.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.