Praise God for Elisjsha Dicken, the young man who stopped the attempted shooting at an Indiana mall by exercising his Second Amendment rights. Across America, there are likely countless heroes like him whose stories we’ve never heard precisely because they succeeded — honorable, responsible men and women who do what it takes to stop senseless violence in its tracks.
But in many Texas schools, there is no armed presence protecting our children. Yet under Texas’ school marshal and school guardian programs, there can be — and there should be.
Our school districts should use all the tools available to them to ensure their students’ safety.
State law offers school districts two options to enable their school personnel — administrators, employees, or teachers willing to participate — to respond in times of crisis. It’s my sincere hope these programs will be adopted statewide to ensure the safety of Texas students.
Under the school safety certification known as the school guardian program, select school personnel undergo a 16-hour active shooter response training by a licensed Department of Public Safety instructor to provide an armed self-defense option in the event of an active shooter.
The school marshal program goes one step further, with training responsibilities under the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. School marshals, who are specifically chosen and appointed by the school board, undergo a rigorous 80 hours of law enforcement training at a police academy along with psychological evaluations, live fire qualifications, and school shooting simulations. These individuals are equipped to serve as school security personnel and act swiftly when lives are threatened.
A police officer’s arrival on the scene could take minutes or, as in the case of the tragically mishandled response to the Uvalde shooting, even hours — but well-trained and armed staff members could stop a shooting immediately.
So why not just hire school resource officers (SROs), who are full-time, uniformed law enforcement officers? This too is an excellent protective measure, but districts face several challenges.
First, SROs are costly. Pay and benefits for just one officer per campus could impose hundreds of thousands in costs. However, the school marshal program costs just $6,000 per participant, and the school guardian program only $1,900. These are far more realistic solutions, especially for small and rural districts.
Second, there is a significant shortage of peace officers. Police departments all over the country are struggling with low staffing just like restaurants and grocery stores, but the roots of this shortage is even deeper than the economy. In a political climate that vilifies law enforcement and cries to defund the police at the drop of a hat, our peace officers are constantly fighting not just crime, but hostile communities.
Sadly, too few young Texans are interested in becoming peace officers, and too many outstanding, qualified officers are quitting early. And even fewer of those willing to carry on defending our communities are likely to choose an SRO job over a police, constable, or sheriff’s office.
The decision to implement school marshal or guardian programs lies not with the State of Texas, but with independently elected school board members. But as a state legislator and a father, I urge Texas schools to implement these programs to ensure no Uvalde ever happens again.
“ATTENTION – ARMED STAFF are present on all PPISD campuses,” says a sign posted at school campuses in Pilot Point, located in the district I serve, “Any attempt to harm children or staff will be met with whatever force is required to protect them.”
We must communicate clearly to the community that if a shooter dares enter the campus to do harm, they will be immediately met with an armed resistance.
“I feel the children would be safer if someone had a concealed handgun license and knew what they were doing,” said one parent.
The men and women whose lives Elisjsha Dicken saved can tell you how true that is.
This is the message we need to send to the sick individuals who seek to harm our children and families: Don’t mess with Texas students.
Our children deserve it.