AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees heard a recommendation Thursday night to beef up security at campuses district-wide.
Dr. Jacob Reach, AISD’s Chief of Governmental Relations & Board Services, recommended the board name one school police officer per campus with the discretion for potentially adding two school police officers for some campuses depending on size and student population.
Districts across Texas have to comply with House Bill 3. It requires an armed officer on every campus. With the passage of the state’s latest school safety bill, House Bill 3, lawmakers handed districts new requirements to place one armed officer on every school campus and bring campuses up to new safety standards.
The law allows school boards to claim a good cause exemption if the district cannot find the funding or personnel to comply with the law, but the district has to come up with an alternative plan.
AISD already has more than 80 officers for about 116 district schools. It is looking to add 70 more officers ahead of the law taking effect in September.
AISD said in a newsletter it is not considering arming teachers or other district employees outside of its Police Department for the following reasons:
- All Austin ISD officers are trained in working with youth. In addition, they have had specialized training for mental health emergencies, crisis intervention, de-escalation and cultural proficiency.
- They must undergo a thorough background check that includes fingerprinting, drug screening and psychological evaluations.
The background check and training of new SROs takes about six months, which is how long it would take before a new officer is ready to serve at an Austin ISD school. For the start of the new school year, the district said it would continue its current practice of staffing SROs and patrol officers to keep schools safe.
Hiring the needed officers to comply with the new law would cost Austin ISD approximately $8 million per year, plus one-time direct costs, according to the newsletter.
The new law provides $15,000 per campus plus $10 per student, or about $2.5 million for AISD, which would leave the district with an unfunded state mandate of about $5.5 million per year.
Some other districts KXAN spoke with are struggling to come up with the money and personnel to comply with the new law.