Protection of Texas Children Act bill heads to governor's desk

Bill would allow for 'school marshal' to have access to weapon on school after' training

SAN ANTONIO – A bill allowing for so-called "school marshals" to have access to a gun on school ground is headed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's desk after it cleared the Senate Wednesday on a 29-4 vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican representing District 114, was passed by the house on May 5.

"This bill allows for anyone already in a school, such as a coach or a teacher or a vice principal, to volunteer to become a school marshal," said Villalba.

The bill requires that the school marshals receive 80 hours of training and undergo an extensive psychiatric evaluation. They would then be allowed to keep a gun in a locked drawer near where they work.

All costs incurred during the program would be paid for by the volunteer, or by grant money designated for the program.

The program is also not mandated by the state, so districts will each choose whether to participate in the program.

San Antonio's largest school districts, who already have police officers on middle school and high school campuses, will likely not participate in the program.

"Northside ISD does not feel that arming teachers is the way to solve school violence," said Pascual Gonzalez, spokesman for NISD. "The focus should instead be centered on fully funding mental health initiatives to stop the problems before they being."

NEISD spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor confirmed that her district will also not be participating in the program, but added it could be useful for smaller school districts without police forces.

SAID spokeswoman Leslie Price said her district would not be participating, but said they agreed with the concept of security being left up to individual districts.

It was unclear Wednesday when the governor would sign the bill, something he is widely expected to do.

For a full list of the bill's provisions, see the points provided below by Rep. Villalba's office:

· The program will be optional for school districts - NOT mandated by the state.

· The plan expands law enforcement into schools by providing comprehensive and specified training for certain volunteer school employees so that they may serve as licensed law enforcement officers in schools ("School Marshals").

· School Marshal training will include mental health evaluation, active shooter and emergency situation training, and firearms proficiency requirements, in each case, as developed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE). These training standards will require 80 hours of classroom and simulation modules, ten times the amount currently required by CHL standards.

· License renewal will be required every two years, which such license renewal would include mental health reevaluation, active shooter and emergency situation recertification, and firearms proficiency training as developed by TCLEOSE.

· School Marshals will only be authorized to act in response to an active shooter or other immediate threat to human life on school grounds. Any firearm accessible to a School Marshal will remain locked in a safe, within immediate reach of the School Marshal, if he or she works in a classroom or in the direct presence of children.

· Participants in the program will be volunteers - a teacher, administrator, coach, or other member of the faculty - who receives permission from the school administration to serve as a School Marshal.

· The cost of training and certification will be paid by the School Marshal, unless grant money is identified and directed for this purpose. These costs will not paid for out of general state revenue.

· School Marshals will be required to use frangible ammunition, designed to disintegrate upon contact with hard surfaces, minimizing the risk of errant shots that ricochet or might otherwise go through an interior wall.

· School Marshals will be covert - known only to the head school administrator and local law enforcement authorities.

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