Texas schools should take advantage of these safety programs

Praise God for Elisjsha Dicken, the young man who stopped the shooter at an Indiana mall while exercising his Second Amendment rights. Across America there are probably countless heroes like him whom we have never heard of precisely because they have succeeded – honorable and responsible men and women who are doing what it takes to stop senseless violence in its tracks.

In many schools in Texas, there is no armed presence to protect our children. Yet, in Texas’ school marshal and tutor programs, there can be — and there should be. Our school districts must use all the tools at their disposal to keep their students safe.

State law provides school districts with two options for allowing their school staff — administrators, employees, or teachers who want to participate — to respond in times of crisis. I sincerely hope that these programs will be adopted statewide to keep Texas students safe.

As part of the school security certification known as the school guard program, selected school personnel undergo 16 hours of active shooter response training by a certified instructor from the Department of Public Safety in order to provide an armed self-defense option in the event of an active shooter.

The school marshal program goes one step further, with training responsibilities under the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. School commissioners, who are specifically chosen and appointed by the school board, undergo 80 hours of rigorous law enforcement training at a police academy, as well as psychological assessments, live-fire qualifications and school shooting simulations. These individuals are equipped to serve as school security personnel and act quickly when lives are threatened.

A police response could take minutes or, as in the tragically mishandled response to the Uvalde shooting, even hours – but well-trained and armed personnel could stop a shooting immediately.

So why not just hire School Resource Officers, who are full-time uniformed law enforcement officers? It’s also a great protective measure, but districts face several challenges.

First, school resource officers are expensive. The salary and benefits of a single officer per campus could impose hundreds of thousands of costs. However, the school marshal program costs only $6,000 per participant and the school tutor program only $1,900. These are much more realistic solutions, especially for small municipalities and rural municipalities.

Second, there is a major shortage of peace officers. Police services in all the countries are struggling with a staff shortage, as are restaurants and grocery stores, but the roots of this shortage run even deeper than the economy. In a political climate that vilifies law enforcement and screams defunding police at the blink of an eye, our peace officers are constantly fighting not only crime, but hostile communities as well.

Unfortunately, too few young Texans are interested in becoming law enforcement officers, and too many exceptional and qualified officers leave early. And even fewer of those willing to continue defending our communities are likely to choose a job as a school resource officer over jobs with the police, police officer, or sheriff’s office.

The decision to implement school marshal or tutor programs does not rest with the state of Texas, but with independently elected school board members. But as a state legislator and father, I urge schools in Texas to implement these programs to ensure that no Uvalde happens again.

“Please be aware,” reads a sign posted on school campuses in Argyle, just a few miles from the district I serve, “that Argyle ISD personnel are armed and may use any force necessary to protect our students.

We need to show the community that if a shooter dares to enter campus to cause harm, they will immediately encounter armed resistance.

“I think kids would be safer if someone had a concealed handgun license and knew what they were doing,” said a parent from Argyle. KTVT-TV (Channel 11).

The men and women whose lives Elisjsha Dicken saved can tell you how true that is.

This is the message we need to send to sick people who seek to harm our children and our families: don’t mess with the students of Texas.

Jared Patterson is a member of the Texas House. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

We welcome your thoughts in a letter to the editor. Consult the instructions and drop your letter here.