There is a new school safety proposal at the capitol that if approved could transform coaches, teachers and even janitors into a new type of undercover cop. They would be called School Marshals, and legislation allowing school districts to do this was filed Wednesday.
Jason Villalba and his legislative aides Wednesday morning officially left their mark on the 83rd legislative session by filing HB 1009. The bill from the Freshman Republican from Dallas goes beyond arming school employees with guns; it basically gives them a badge.
"The Protection of Texas Children Act creates a new licensed law enforcement officer, under the Texas law," Villalba explained. "So this is not a situation where we are having a CHL license carrier in the classroom, this is a situation where we are introducing a new law enforcement officer in the classroom by giving him significant and robust training focusing on active shooter training emergency training, legal training and psychological evaluation profiling, just to certify they are qualified to serve in this law enforcement capacity."
The legislation is the latest in response to the December mass shooting in Connecticut. The tragedy forced parents like Jerry Jackson, who was visiting the capitol with his family, to rethink how far school safety programs should go.
"My wife is a public school teacher and we, school safety, our children's safety is our number one concern and if we've got a well-trained person on campus I think it will be a good idea," said Jackson.
Organizations that represent teachers don't like all this gun talk. However, school boards in Texas already have the authority to create a policy allowing employees to have their guns on campus. Last month FOX7 visited the first ISD in the state to do it.
The Guardian Plan at Harrold ISD began about 5 years ago. School employees with a CHL, who are selected to take part, must first go through additional training.
"It is my belief and many others that we created this by making schools gun free zones," said Superintendent David Thweat.
The identity of Thweat's employees, who are armed, is a closely guarded secret. He expects them to react to any threat is not.
"We don't have to worry about Miranda Rights, we don't have to worry about anything like that, we have to worry about hitting the target, if there is an active shooter that's what we have to worry about," said Thweat.
Under Villalba's plan a school marshal would have to follow the rules set up by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education. School districts would be limited to hiring only one marshal for every 400 students. Like the Harrold ISD Guardians, identities would be kept secret.
"But in our program in our legislation if you are in the direct presence of children then you must have the weapon, any fire arm under lock and key within your immediate reach," said Villalba.
The school marshal plan is not a mandate but an option for school boards to consider. Because of that, coming up with the money to pay for this new security force will be up to the school districts that want them.
There is another bill in the works to help school districts pay for tactical training. It would allow school boards issue a special tax that would not factor into the overall property tax cap set by law. However, the current way the state funds education was ruled to be unconstitutional Monday. How that's addressed could very well decide on just how many districts are willing to train school marshals.