Texas

Texas sees spike in school marshals, training program to arm staff

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, or TCOLE, will license 20 new school marshals this weekend — just a portion of the 94 potential school marshals that could complete their licensing training before the end of the summer. 

This is the third of four trainings TCOLE will put on this summer.

In light of recent events, representatives with TCOLE say they've seen a spike in the demand for these trainings across the state. 

Currently, there are 71 trained school marshals in Texas school districts.

KXAN received an inside look Friday at the training marshals receive at an elementary school in Pflugerville. We spoke with one of the prospective school marshal students enrolled in this class, but for confidentiality reasons, will not release his name or where he lives and works. 

"We have to change our mindset that people will come into our schools and harm our children, and I think we need to be ready to protect our precious commodity there," the student said. "I want the teachers to at least be on a level playing field with anyone coming in the school to do harm to their students."

This school marshal student, a school board member in his area, said the simulation experience Friday affected him. 

"It’s very chilling to see that people could come in there and just, you know, maliciously kill innocent children." 

The 80-hour required training consists of hands-on scenario exercises in a school setting with simulated firearms. In order to participate in the course, these prospective students must be an employee of a Texas school district, they must have their license to carry and they must undergo a psychological evaluation. 

TCOLE says the training is about preparing armed district employees for a real-life active shooter situation on a school campus.

"The last thing you want to do is put somebody in a position where they're faced with an intense, critical situation that they've never faced before or even something remotely close to it," explained Kim Vickers, TCOLE's executive director. 

Course trainers said this training forces the prospective school marshals to look at their campuses through a different lens.

"Most of these people did not get into education with the anticipation of carrying a firearm in school," said Michael Antu, the director of enforcement and special services at TCOLE.

Antu says they're presented with realistic situations. 

"We saw the entry into a room, they cleared the room, and came out of the room to continue searching the building. We saw a shoot scenario where at the end, the aggressor was shot and taken out." 

In order to successfully complete the course, students must undergo all of the requirements. There are pistol qualification, the scenarios and a written exam. 

Although there is more demand for the training, some people believe this program is not the answer to school safety in Texas. 

"Each time there's a tragedy, whether it's at a school or at a church, there's a troubled person behind that weapon. Let's deal with the prevention," said Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin. "What do our students need? They need support. They need love. They need more counselors. They need more attention and support from all of us."

The Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security released its final report earlier this week, with recommendations for possible legislation.

The committee was formed after the deadly school shootings in May in Santa Fe, Texas.

The senators had four interim charges: improving school design to improve security, studying school security options and resources (including armed school personnel), studying the root causes of mass murder in schools and examining whether to consider "Red Flag" laws to temporarily remove firearms from a person who poses a threat to themselves or others.

The lawmakers made several recommendations to improve school security. Among them was suggested legislation to pay for training for school marshals.

The recommendations could pave the way for new laws in the next legislative session. Lawmakers will begin that session on Jan. 8.


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