The first seven school marshals in Texas are now being trained at Tarrant County College’s (TCC) Northwest campus in Fort Worth.
State law created these positions through the Protection of Texas Children Act, and allows any eligible school employee to perform the duties of a school marshal.
Yamil Berard, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says that marshals receive training including tactical firearms experience, strategy, prevention, and response. The districts where these school marshals will be stationed and the names of these employees will not be released as part of House Bill 1009. The course is an 80-hour program. Rafael Perea is an instructor at the police academy at TCC.
“These guys are anonymous and it is all confidential,’’ Perea said. “If you want to take the concept of an air marshal inside an airplane, this is a school marshal inside of a school. It is to provide that extra layer of defense for our children.’’
School administration, teachers, and other workers in education can qualify if they have a concealed handgun permit, pass a psychological exam, and adhere to the requirements of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. When qualified, the employee will take the training and the continuing education offered by the course.
TCC is the first location in the state to offer such a course, which costs $400 per person.
“They are to respond when there is deadly force only,’’ Perea said. “This is not about responding to any kind of disturbance on their job, such as parking issues.”
The need for the school marshals was first discussed after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Connecticut in 2012. Twenty children and six educators were killed during the massacre.
Schools all over the country began setting up camera surveillance, fortifying school entrances, and increasing police presence on campuses. Not only do school marshals in Texas have to be employees of the school, but they also have to be appointed by the board of trustees, says Eva-Marie Ayala of the Dallas Morning News.
Individual school boards must vote on whether or not they want to be a part of the school marshals program, and the addition of marshals has not been well-received by some.
Dallas Independent School District Police Chief Craig Miller, who assisted in designing the program for the TCC course, says that he is concerned with arming teachers with guns and then, possibly, putting them in situations that even a veteran police officer would find difficult.
It will be the decision-making skills that will be most important for the school marshals.
Elizabeth Dinh, writing for CBS News says that part of the training for the school employees is going to a range and discussing recent school shootings in order to come up with lessons that can be learned from these tragedies.
“Maybe they can take some of this information and maybe even conduct their own investigation,” said school marshal instructor Rafael Perea. “Knowing that, ‘Hey, this could happen in my school system,’ and so maybe they can catch it before it happens.”