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Metal detectors being considered in Texas school safety bill

Texas lawmakers are close to approving new school safety measures. SB 11, already passed by the Senate, is on its way to the house committee.

The bill would allocate $100 million to Texas schools for schools to spend on various efforts to “harden” campuses with metal detectors, vehicle barriers, new security doors, shooter alarms systems and myriad other safety measures.

Senators have also passed a sweeping campus safety bill designed to get more mental health counselors into schools and to create “threat assessment teams” that would help identify potentially dangerous students before they act. School districts would also be required to draft campus emergency plans that would be filed with the state.

While those initiatives have widespread bipartisan support, the efforts to arm more school personnel have faced more resistance.

The state Senate has passed bills that would rapidly expand the school marshal program, which trains teachers and other school personnel to carry weapons and let them keep their weapons on them at all times instead of locking them in a safe away from students. Another measure would protect school marshals from liability lawsuits for “reasonable action” taken to maintain student safety.

The Texas school marshal program was created shortly after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, but was slow to take hold. Schools are not required to have armed marshals and many larger districts employ their own police or contract with local law enforcement.

Texas had less than 40 certified school marshals across more than 1,000 public school districts in early 2018. Applications rose sharply after the Santa Fe school shooting and the number of school marshals is now close to 200. Marshals receive 80 hours of training, including practice in “live shooter” scenarios.

The state Senate voted to eliminate a provision that limit marshals to one per 200 students or one per building, and to allow them to carry their concealed weapons near students.

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