AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas school districts will soon have to answer to a new chief of school safety and security. Gov. Greg Abbott called on the Texas Education Agency to create that position Thursday. The chief will be tasked with collaborating with state agencies to provide a safe environment for Texas students and educators. While that’s a solution, some local teachers and school leaders want more.
Arming teachers in Texas schools is a subject that’s come to the forefront in the wake of the Uvalde massacre.
“My preference would not be personally to arm teachers especially with kids in the classroom because it is a lot more responsibility to try to protect them in those situations,” said Chane Rascoe, Ed.D., Superintendent of Lampasas ISD.
Dr. Rascoe’s solution is to hire school resource officers, but says they are almost impossible to find. He’s part of the state’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force, so he knows about the teacher shortage firsthand, but the shortage of law enforcement officers in schools is also worsening.
“Our local police force is trying to locate school resource officers for us, but they are having problems because they can’t even find officers for their departments,” Rascoe explained.
After the Uvalde shooting, many districts re-evaluated safety protocols and procedures. Some Texas Republican lawmakers also weighed in saying a possible solution could be arming teachers.
According to a survey by the Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT), 77% of respondents do not want to be armed to confront a shooter in their schools. Those respondents include 5,100 Texas K-12 school employees, higher-ed employees, parents, and community leaders.
“Trying to arm teachers is risky and counterproductive,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo. “Teachers can’t be expected to become highly-trained law enforcement officers and use guns in a crisis without endangering students or themselves.”
“We already have a lot on our plate and to add in security guard by arming us and telling us we have to be the first line of defense is just another thing thrown on our plate,” said Austin ISD teacher Eric Ramos.
Ramos’ immediate solution is more funding from the state and local government to revamp security in older buildings.
“We don’t have millions of dollars laying around to make sure we have everything every building needs,” Ramos explained.
In addition to more funding for security, the survey revealed school employees supported legislation focusing on access to guns, including:
- 99% supported comprehensive background checks required for purchases from all gun sellers.
- 98% supported “red flag warnings” that can stop people going through extreme emotional or mental health issues from buying or using guns.
- 96% supported raising the minimum age for all legal gun purchases to 21.
- 83% supported a ban on assault weapons.
- 82% supported more rigorous secure storage laws so our kids can’t access guns at their homes or friends’ homes.
- Only 3% did not want any of these measures.