HB 3 covers a lot of ground concerning school security.
The bill strengthens the Texas School Safety Center, which disseminates safety information to all schools.
It requires annual audits of school protocol, and requires more staff members to get mental health training.
“It has many provisions in it, some good, and many quite harmful,” said Paige Duggins-Clay, chief legal analyst at the Intercultural Development Research Association, or IDRA.
IDRA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civil rights group focusing on equal education opportunity through strong public schools.
The main piece of the bill that’s raising eyebrows mandates an armed security officer at every Texas school campus.
“We’ve talked to experts who estimate to put an armed police officer on every campus. It’s going to be a minimum of $75,000-$100,000 per campus,” Duggins-Clay said.
Funding is one of her main concerns when it comes to required armed security and mandated school hardening (including fencing, technology for officers, security mapping, etc.)
“For me as a parent, and what we’re hearing from our educator partners, is how do you meet that standard? Is the school expected to forgo an educator, a bus driver, to first fulfil that armed security officer?” she said.
The bill, itself, acknowledges funding.
It lists an exception for schools that cannot afford to hire an officer or don’t have enough personnel to qualify as security officers.
Those schools could arm a school district employee, who would be required to undergo training from a handgun instructor certified in school safety.
“It’s a minimum of 15 hours of training. We believe strongly that the answer to mass violence is not more guns in our schools,” Duggins-Clay said.
Proponents of the bill have pointed to the fact that it did increase overall school safety funding by raising the allotment per student from $9.72 to $10.
They also added some school safety grants and allotted $15,000 more to each school.
“$15,000 not enough to pay for the personnel for an armed security mandate. Most schools are dipping into their own locally generated revenue, so this is a burden that’s not only going to fall on our schools but also our local taxpayers,” Duggins-Clay said.
Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose gun control bills did not pass in the Texas Legislature, released a statement bashing HB 3.
“School districts and their employees have already been asked to do more with less – more students with less counselors and support staff, larger class sizes with fewer teachers, and building more schools with less state money. Now we are going to add an unfunded mandate to have a security officer at every single public school. It is sick and twisted that we have the largest budget surplus in Texas history and we aren’t doing a damn thing to keep our kids safe. We aren’t doing anything to prevent another Uvalde,” Gutierrez said.
IDRA also pointed to a study by the National Library of Medicine that shows armed security on school campuses does not deter targeted shootings by individuals, who are commonly suicidal.
Plus, the organization cites civil rights concerns.
“We know when police officers are stationed at our schools, black, brown and queer students are the ones who are disproportionately affected,” Duggins-Clay said.
Duggins-Clay said this happens when officers get involved in daily school discipline, citing a study from the Civil Rights Data Collection.
“There were some guardrails put into this bill to try to mitigate against armed police getting involved in ordinary school discipline. The reality is, we know that they do,” she said.
She said discipline needs to be left to educators and school administrators.
“Educators are specially trained to fulfil their duty, which is to educate and support kids. You approach discipline and intervention in other ways that are based in evidence and based in research. Even if you have the most well-intentioned armed officer, they just don’t have the training of how we support kiddos,” she said.
IDRA hopes the legislature will reconsider parts of the bill in a special session.
KSAT reached out to the legislators who supported the bill that represent the South Texas region.
One of the bill’s authors, Representative Tracy King, did not respond to repeated calls and emails.
An aide for Rep. Steve Allison, who also supported the bill, did respond but declined to comment on the subject.