Bill requiring armed people in Texas schools heads to governor
A bill that would require armed security in Texas schools passed out of the state Legislature Sunday and now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law.
The bill, which passed just days after the anniversary of last year’s deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, was listed as one of Abbott’s legislative priorities this session.
House Bill 3 would require at least one armed officer to be present on every school campus. That includes a school district peace officer, school resource officer or commissioned peace officer, according to the bill’s text.
District trustees can demonstrate “good cause” for an exemption to those options, including a lack of funding or qualified personnel. However, the district must come up with an “alternative standard” to comply, which can include arming a school marshal or any other trained school district employee or contractor.
HB 3 also requires an updated emergency preparedness plan with audits at least once every three years, a regional education service center to help develop those plans and address campus security needs for local schools, mental health training for district employees who regularly interact with students, and the development of a notification system for parents and guardians about possible violent incidents on school grounds.
The bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, said during a March House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety that schools need armed adults ready to act immediately in the minutes and seconds when a mass shooting can take place.
"In far too many instances, parents and students have been lulled into a false sense of security that their school, since they had security plans and measures in place, were actually checking on these measures and preparing them for them," Burrows said.
The Senate version of HB 3 initially removed language requiring an armed person at every school. The requirement was added back in when members of the House and Senate convened to reconcile differences in the two versions of the bill Saturday evening.
I voted against HB 3 because the #TexasSenate is mandating cops at every public school WITHOUT funding them.— Senator Roland Gutierrez (@RolandForTexas) May 28, 2023
This only further burdens our schools. Our children and teachers deserve far better than this.
Once again #Republicans prove they don’t care about our kids or… pic.twitter.com/1peekU86Zb
Districts would get $15,000 per campus to maintain school safety plans, $10 per student in average daily attendance and $1 per every $50 the district is in excess of the money it already receives in public education funding.
Critics of the bill say it doesn’t go far enough in funding the new school safety requirements.
Texans are still reeling from last year's mass shooting at Robb Elementary, one of the deadliest shootings in state history. More recently, a shooting at Lamar High School in Arlington on March 20 left one student dead and another injured.
At the March hearing, experts and concerned constituents were divided on a solution.
Flo Rice testified in support of HB 3 because she said armed police officers saved her life during the mass shooting that left 10 dead at Santa Fe High School in 2018.
"I was one of the 13 who was shot and survived," said Rice, who was a substitute teacher the day of the shooting.
Rice testified in support of Senate Bill 11 in 2019, which allowed substitute teachers like her to access keys and lock doors in case of an emergency.
However, she said she believed that law did not hold districts accountable in maintaining effective active shooter response plans.
She cited the House's report, published by The Texas Tribune, on systemic failures in law enforcement's response to the Uvalde shooting. According to the report, the shooter entered the school through an exterior door that was propped open.
Carnelius Gilder also testified in support of HB 3. As superintendent of West Sabine Independent School District, a rural district with about 600 students total, Gilder said his administration struggles to fund even basic safety measures. He said outdoor fencing alone would make up a huge chunk of the district's state funding.
"I'm probably the only district in East Texas that does not receive any minerals, that is not property rich, and I'm surrounded by all of these districts that can make [safety] a priority, but they can fund the priority," Gilder said.
🚨ACTION ALERT: Don't fall for the illusion of school safety! #HB3 has one more vote. The conference committee report changed the bill & includes harmful provisions that will do little to protect students from school-based violence.— IDRA (@IDRAedu) May 27, 2023
Call your reps, now! #txlege #txed pic.twitter.com/V9MvHaHsao
Others who testified said they found it hard to believe putting armed guards in schools would bolster school safety.
"My wish is that this Legislature would do more than react defensively to the rising gun violence present at our schools and instead pivot to preventing would-be shooters from having such easy access to these deadly weapons," said Robin Breed with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action.
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