Arming teachers is tough, even in gun-loving Texas

But Texas, a state with a legendary gun culture, has allowed teachers to register as campus “marshals” since 2013 through a program enacted after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, N.B. Connecticut. The initiative saw less than 300 educators. enroll in 62 school districts, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, even after some restrictions around the program were eased following a 2018 deadly mass shooting at a Houston-area high school.

A survey of more than 1,000 state school districts by the Texas School Safety Center found that only 280 systems participated in an older, separate, and much less regulated state “guardian” program intended to deploy teachers armed as ultimate guards against active shooters.

Many risks accompany training.

“One of the most candid conversations we have with school districts is this: When an officer shows up and doesn’t know if you’re the good guy or the bad guy, they won’t ask questions,” Kathy said. Martinez-Prather, the state school safety center director, said in an interview.

“The purpose of these individuals is not to engage the threat. It’s kind of a last resort,” she said. “If you can’t run and escape, and you can’t hide, sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself. In no way do we encourage them to go and engage the threat at any time as a first option. »

The idea of ​​armed teachers promises to tap into a renewed political urgency in the school safety debate, as a top Texas law enforcement official on Friday acknowledged the failures of a police response laborious to the violence of this week. And the issue has found considerable resonance in states like Florida, where law enforcement presence on school campuses increased after the 2018 murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Yet the country’s top education official and the head of the biggest teachers’ union have derided the idea and described it as a distraction from addressing the role guns play in violence in the USA.

“The solution to arming teachers, in my view, is further disrespect for a profession that is already beleaguered and does not feel the support of so many,” Education Secretary Miguel said this week. Cardona, to Capitol Hill lawmakers. “We need to make sure that we empower our teachers to be successful in teaching our children.”

More than 100 bills to arm school staff were introduced in 34 states and territories between 2018 and 2021, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than a third of this legislation was introduced following the 2018 shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas. The vast majority of all these bills have not moved forward.

Yet in April 2020, an analysis by the RAND Corporation found that 28 states allow schools to arm teachers or staff in at least some cases or as part of a specific program. This included states without laws expressly banning or allowing armed school personnel, and several others – Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee and Texas among them – with laws allowing the practice in one form or another.

“Bringing more guns to schools makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence,” National Education Association President Becky Pringle said in a statement. “We need fewer guns in schools, not more. Teachers should teach, not act as armed security guards.

She added: “Schools need more mental health professionals, not guns; teachers need more resources, not guns.

In Florida, less than a month after the Parkland attack, state lawmakers passed sweeping security reforms that also required schools to post at least one armed guard on campus every day.

As a result, law enforcement presence on local campuses grew to 4,381 security officers in 3,641 schools last fall.

Almost two-thirds of these guards are law enforcement officers assigned to schools, while the other 1,384 officers are trained “guards” who may include teachers or other staff. It’s unclear how many of the state’s tutors are teachers, although some Florida officials support the tutor program in the wake of the Texas attack.

“People worry that teachers will use guns irresponsibly or that students will get a gun from a teacher. But none of that happened,” Ryan Petty, the father of Parkland student Alaina Petty, who was among the 17 killed at Parkland, tweeted on Friday. Petty also serves on the state Board of Education.

But in Texas, Martinez-Prather of the Public Schools Security Center said schools are more likely to rely on a mix of standard security personnel and school-based police officers — in addition to the casual armed teacher.

“We are seeing a greater increase in districts creating their own [police force],” she said. “When you think about having actual, credentialed, licensed peace officers on your campus, some districts feel more comfortable having professionals in those positions, rather than their educators.”

Andrew Atterbury contributed to this report.


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