Congressman Tony Gonzales gathers school officials, local law enforcement to discuss school safety

House Bill 3 will require all school districts to have at least one-armed officer on every school campus

SAN ANTONIO – US Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio on Monday met with officials from various school districts and local law enforcement agencies to talk about school safety.

House Bill 3, which is set to go into law Sept. 1, will require all school districts to have at least one armed officer on every school campus.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar and others addressed the issues of the unfunded mandate.

“It’s great to be able to pass legislation to say, ‘You got to have a cop on the campus, but we’re not going to give you the money to do it.’ So at that point it becomes more problematic,” Salazar said.

Some school district officials said they are not equipped to meet HB 3′s requirements.

South San ISD Superintendent Henry Yzaguirre said while the district wants to abide by the new law, they will have to file for an exemption.

“I want to assure our community that we are safe. We are providing the services that we need in covering our schools. However, it will be difficult come September 1st to have an officer at every school,” Yzaguirre said.

Because the right people for the position aren’t applying for the position, Yzaguirre said the district doesn’t have the manpower. One armed officer will have to patrol more than one campus, for now.

“Many of our schools are within a good proximity for us to respond, should we need to. We will be exercising that to the best of our ability,” Yzaguirre said.

He added that the district does hire security officers, and while they may be unarmed, they do provide 24-hour patrol of their facilities.

And while the need for more personnel was the common denominator between districts, Southwest ISD stated the need for improved infrastructure.

There has to be more funding for the bricks and mortar of what the school district needs, and right now as superintendents, we’re expected to carry that burden by going to our taxpayers and asking them to pass a bond. But there has to be some other type of relief to be able to help with those items,” Southwest ISD Superintendent Jeanette Ball said.

Ball, previously a superintendent in Uvalde, said she understands why improving the integrity of older school buildings is crucial to overall security.

“When I was the superintendent there, I knew that our buildings were much older, but the funding lacked for that. They didn’t have the secure vestibules. They didn’t have the one entrance for the campus. They didn’t have the fencing. So, the need is there, and I know that that’s one of many school districts that are in that situation,” she said.

Ball said Southwest ISD is running a very tight ship when it comes to security.

Even for myself, when I go into a building, I have to sign in, I have to show my ID. All our perimeter doors are locked, there’s one entrance. You go into that entrance into a secure vestibule so people can’t get into the entire building until you’ve been checked in. So, we really hardened all our campuses, she said.

Ball said the takeaway of Monday’s discussion was to take a look at the grants and see which ones are available and who they can partner with to try and get additional funding for school safety.

I don’t want us just to focus on the reactive, but looking and seeing the mental health issue, having more counselors, social workers, smaller class sizes. All those things would be important. So, the adult can focus on the child’s needs,” she said.

The importance of increasing school resource officer presence, implementing improved access control measures, enhancing emergency response plans, and investing in mental health resources for students were all key points highlighted in the discussion.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said his officers are ready to help.

“Our main responsibility here is response, and we are again capable of doing that and we’re ready just in case the call does come in,” he said.

About the Authors

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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