Texas Lawmakers Approve Bill That Would Require Armed Officers at All Schools
The bill would require school districts to place an armed school-employed or contracted peace officer or school resource officer on every campus during school hours.
The Texas Legislature has approved a $330 million bill that in part would require an armed officer at each school in the state.
House Bill 3 (HB 3), now on its way for approval to Governor Greg Abbott, was created following the May 24, 2022, mass shooting at Robb Elementary School that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers. The House passed in a 93-49 vote a version of the bill agreed upon by a conference committee appointed by the House and Senate, reports Austin American-Statesman. The Senate also approved the legislation.
HB 3, which is in addition to $1.1 billion in the newly approved state budget for district security, requires school districts to place an armed school-employed or contracted peace officer or school resource officer on every campus during school hours. Districts that can’t comply may submit a waiver to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and ask to fulfill the requirement with another employee who would undergo training.
The bill also requires each district employee who regularly interacts with students to have mental health training. In addition, it requires districts to have an updated preparedness plan that is audited at least once every three years, and requires law enforcement in counties with fewer than 350,000 people to hold semi-annual meetings to discuss school safety and law enforcement response. This includes ensuring there is a clear chain of command and that all radios are working, according to The Texas Tribune.
Additional proposals under the bill include:
- The Texas School Safety Center must review best practices to secure campuses every five years
- The creation of regional safety teams to conduct intruder detection audits at least once a year
- The creation of a safety and security department within the TEA that has the authority to compel school districts to establish active shooter protocols
- The TEA must develop standards for notifying parents of violent activity on campus
- Set up school safety review teams to conduct vulnerability assessments of the schools once a year
To further harden schools, the bill allocates $15,000 per campus for security funding and increases per-pupil safety funding from $9.72 to $10 — a figure many school officials say isn’t enough. During a session Sunday, Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) shared concerns that the new version of the bill doesn’t provide enough money for what it is demanding and that requiring armed personnel on every campus would create an “unfunded liability.”
“(HB 3 is) an act which has good intentions, ensuring the safety of our students, but instead to put them at greater risk threatens to create undue financial stress on our public schools, and possible liability for our school districts,” she said. “The potential for disastrous consequences is staggering.”
Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) said the bill offers other ways for districts to comply if they can’t afford to employ a peace officer.
“This is a huge win for the safety of our children,” added Rep. Carrie Isaac (R-Dripping Springs).
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