AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas lawmakers continue to examine ways to make schools safer, in the wake of deadly shootings across the country.
On Tuesday, lawmakers discussed what role personnel plays in the school safety solution.
The Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security listened to testimony about the school marshal program, school resource officers, and armed educators.
Mitzi McEwen, a retired principal from Friendswood ISD near Houston, said she was hard-pressed to find teachers who wanted to carry a gun. However, she acknowledged that there may be people willing to do so.
“If a hospital is having emergency shooters and suddenly everybody said, ‘OK, doctors you all need to take up guns and defends yourselves.’ I think doctors would say ‘I have surgery, I have important things to do.’ Teachers have important things to do,” said McEwen.
Others argued that teachers need to do more, whether or not that means arming them.
“We need to be bold enough to ask our teachers, to learn those skills that can save lives in the event that such an attack were to take place God forbid,” said Sheriff Jim Skinner of Collin County.
Wylie ISD, also near Dallas, relies on its school marshal program. The school board appoints staff members, who are required to receive 80 hours of training and pass psychology exams. Like many rural communities, it is too expensive for the district to start its own police department.
“School marshal have to be trained to do one thing and that’s to stop an active threat all the other duties that police officers have, we really don’t train them with that,” said Craig Bessent, assistant superintendent at Wylie ISD.
Chief Allen Bank of the Round Rock Police Department said his school resource officers are trained in all kinds of active killer situations, because he does not want his officers to have “tunnel vision.” Those officers are constant presence at middle and high schools throughout the district.
“We don’t want to be disciplinarians. We want to be there as mentors, coaches, as just protectors of our kids,” said Banks,
Many people argued for the need for a multi-layered approach to protecting schools.
“We don’t want any shots fired on a campus, or any kind of violence. But, when it happens, when you are talking about eight to nine murder attempts per minute, the quicker someone can respond with force the quicker the shooting stops and the killing stops,” said Senator Larry Taylor of District 11.
The Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security plans to have another meeting looking at mental health.