SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Independent School District board voted to file for an exemption in House Bill 3, a sweeping school safety bill that requires districts to have at least one armed security officer present at every campus.
During a regular board meeting on Monday, trustees voted unanimously to claim a “good cause” exemption for the armed officer due to a lack of funding and lack of personnel.
HB 3, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 14 and goes into effect on Sept. 1, requires at least one armed officer present at campuses during school hours.
That may include a school district peace officer, a school resource officer or a commissioned peace officer.
However, if districts are unable to provide an armed officer, the board may claim an exemption.
SAISD’s police Chief Johnny Reyes said his team of 58 officers “are spread so thin” and they still aren’t fully staffed.
He said they have 10 openings that need to be filled, but even if they hired for those spots, there wouldn’t be enough officers for every campus.
Reyes said the other challenge is hiring qualified officers.
“Of course, we want this for every campus, it’s just finding the right people,” Reyes told board members. “Because more importantly we’re prepared as a police department to act, but more importantly we want those people of good character in our campuses that are going to deal with our students and build relationships.”
In speaking with other school police chiefs across the state, Reyes said he noticed other districts are facing the same situation.
“We’re just unable to find qualified personnel and hire them as policemen,” Reyes said.
The exemption they plan on filing will last for two years. Reyes said once they develop a general safety plan, they will release it to the public.
Police operations will not be released to the public due to safety reasons.
“Once we come up with that plan and we’re all in agreement, then we’re going to go business as usual,” he said.
HB 3 was passed in response to the Uvalde school shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers in May 2022.
It also requires certain school employees to have mental health training to deal with students who experience mental health or substance use issues.
In general, the state has more authority in implementing school safety guidelines, like making sure facilities are secure and requiring regular reviews. For example, the Texas School Safety Center will review facility standards at least once every five years. It will also establish a school safety and security office at the Texas Education Agency.