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Texas school district approves hiring of armed civilians

SAN MARCOS, Texas (NewsNation) — More and more school districts across the Lone Star State want to hire armed civilians to manage security on campus through the state’s School Marshal program.

San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District is the latest to approve this program for its elementary schools.

The School Marshal program is a licensing program under the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement that allows school employees to carry a gun on campus.

It was created in 2013 in response to the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, KPRC reported. It has resurfaced since the Robb Elementary School shooting last May that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

There are close to 300 school marshals across 74 school districts in the state, which has more than 1,200 school districts, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Officials said the goal of the program is to have an armed security officer serve as the main point of contact on campus in the event of an emergency.

These officers are in such high demand that the state can barely keep up with training, according to the San Marcos police chief who helped develop the program.

The marshal must fulfill certain requirements like having a current license to carry, passing a psychological exam and completing the 80-hour school marshal training.

On campus, the marshal would be responsible for planning drills, auditing security and checking exterior doors weekly. The marshals also won’t be in uniform and will carry a concealed weapon.

People expressed concerns about potentially arming teachers, but San Marcos CISD School Board President Clementine Cantu said they wouldn’t do that.

“Thinking about retired law officers or retired military that they could come and be the marshals,” Cantu said.

“Hundreds of guns were in Uvalde. Hundreds. None of them did the job, at least not soon enough,” Tim Bauerkemper vocalized his concerns at the San Marcos School Board meeting.

However, Cantu said a survey revealed a majority of the SMCISD parents who responded supported the plan.

“You have a first responder in the school that would address it in minutes as opposed to waiting for someone to get there,” Cantu said.

School districts like Denver, which initially eliminated school resource officers, have since reinstated them after a series of emergencies on campus.

The Medford School District in Medford, Oregon, has also started a new partnership with the city’s police department to create its own School Marshal Program for elementary schools, according to a report by KOBI-TV NBC5.

A marshal is different than a school resource officer because the local police department does not employ them. Instead, they are a school district employee.

Dr. Daniel Bober, a forensic psychiatrist, said it’s a terrible idea to arm teachers and hire school marshals. He said if people want to protect schools, they need to start by protecting the mental health of children.

“This starts at a very early age when parents teach their kids to put words to feelings and to learn to tolerate the stress and frustration,” Bober said. “We can do this every day with our kids by making them resilient. And this is something I think we need to focus on more than putting guns in schools.”

The San Marcos police chief, Stan Standridge, said even if he could hire school resource officers, he would have to assign them to fieldwork because of the department’s staffing issues and the fact that violent crime has increased more than 150% since 2010.

NewsNation affiliate KXAN contributed to this report.