Texas Governor Signs Bill Allowing More Armed Teachers

June 7, 2019 Updated: June 7, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas—Texas will allow more teachers to have guns in school and will increase mental health services for students under bills that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law on June 6 as major parts of the state’s response to a 2018 mass shooting at a high school near Houston.

School districts will be allowed to place as many armed teachers or school personnel on campus as they see fit. The new laws also are designed to put more mental health counselors on campus, train teachers to recognize mental health problems and create “threat assessment teams” to help identify potentially dangerous students.

“We are proud to have responded to one of the most horrific days in the state of Texas,” the Republican governor said of the shooting at Santa Fe High School in which eight students and two teachers were killed. “We can never erase the pain that this tragedy caused, but we can act to make our schools safer.”

Ten crosses honoring the 10 people killed in a shooting
Ten crosses honoring the 10 people killed in a shooting at Santa Fe High School were dedicated during a ceremony in Santa Fe, Texas, on Oct. 20, 2018. (Kelsey Walling/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Lawmakers also approved separate measures to “harden” campuses with metal detectors, vehicle barriers, new security doors, shooter alarm systems and other means.

Abbott called school safety one of his top priorities this year.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at Dallas’s City Hall in downtown Dallas following the deaths of five police officers last night in Dallas, Texas on July 8, 2016. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Efforts to create so-called “red flag” laws to keep guns away from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others, and to toughen penalties for negligent home storage were defeated. Addressing mental health and a push to arm more school personnel became the focus for lawmakers.

A push for red flag laws, “Right now it’s not necessary in the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “We think the best approach is what we passed.”

Texas isn’t alone in its push to arm more educators. Florida recently approved increasing the number of armed teachers in response to the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland that killed 17 people.

It is unclear how many school marshals—the term used to describe school workers who go through “school marshal” training—will be added by next school year. The program is voluntary and marshals must be approved by their local school districts for the 80 hours of training, which includes “active shooter” scenarios. The governor’s office did not immediately provide an estimate for how many it expects will be certified for the 2019-2020 school year.

Texas had less than 40 school marshals throughout its more than 1,000 public school districts in early 2018. Applications rose sharply after the Santa Fe attack, which authorities blame on a student at the school who faces charges, and the number of school marshals rose to nearly 200 by the end of the school year that just ended.

texas sarah fe high school shooting
Santa Fe High School freshman, Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses representing victims in front the school in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 21, 2018. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Previous law limited the number of school marshals to one per 200 students or one per building and the new law removes that cap. Marshals will still have to keep their guns locked away from students. A separate effort to allow marshals to carry concealed weapons on them in school didn’t pass.

Rusty Norman, president of the Santa Fe school board, said his district is still undecided on whether to put armed school marshals on campus.

“After the community suffered the tragedy we suffered, people are willing to look at all aspects of safety, and that’s just one additional thing that does make people safer,” Norman said. “Others are worried about introducing more guns on a school campus.”

By Jim Vertuno

Recommended