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New school safety law takes effect on campuses across Texas

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- House Bill 3 goes into effect Sept. 1, 2023, tightening school measures throughout school campuses in Texas.

The bill hopes to ensure public school safety following the Robb Elementary School that killed 19 school children and two teachers in May of 2022.

According to the new law, trustees for school boards across the state shall determine the appropriate number of armed security officers for each campus.

At least one armed security officer should be present during regular school hours at each campus.

The officer must be a school district peace officer, a school resource officer, a school marshal, a district employee or a commissioned peace officer employed as security.

ABC-7 reached out to Borderland school districts to see how they are preparing for the new law.

An official with the Socorro Independent School District said they have their own internal police department and an officer was assigned to every campus even before HB3.

"The SISD police force works in tandem with the district’s security officers to keep schools safe. SISD officers work collaboratively with city, county, and state agencies during emergency situations to ensure swift and appropriate action to protect our school communities."

An official with EPISD said the district has 44 officer positions that are part of El Paso ISD Police Services.

"These are full-time law-enforcement officers that operate within El Paso ISD’s campuses. To meet security needs at all 75 campuses, the district currently can employ 69 off-duty El Paso Police Department officers through a memorandum of understanding with the City of El Paso. The Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to accept an exemption to the mandate to ensure the district remains in compliance with HB3 while it navigates a shortage of available qualified peace officers in our area. El Paso ISD is actively pursuing an expansion of its MOU with the City of El Paso to include the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. This would allow the district to employ off-duty deputies at schools and consistently provide the necessary security presence as mandated by HB3," a spokesperson said.

An official with Ysleta ISD also said they have taken the necessary measures to comply with the alternative standard under HB3. They also said they are in the final stage of the hiring process to add more armed guards, but are facing challenges.

"Given the local shortage of peace officers and lack of funding, Ysleta ISD's plan was designed to meet HB3's good-cause alternative standard; certain elements of our plan are already in place, and we will implement the balance as soon as possible. In addition, our campuses are equipped with safety vestibules, visitor management system, cameras, electronic access doors, and perimeter fencing," a YISD spokesperson said.

A spokesperson with Canutillo ISD said they now have the required amount of officers for each campus.

However, an official said the biggest challenge they are facing is the lack of funding since it is an unfunded mandate.

“We needed to look for funding, unfortunately, the State did not step up with significant funding for us to meet these requirements and we have had to take the brunt of having to have our budget take the hit," said Gustavo Reveles with the Canutillo Independent School District.

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Rosemary Montañez

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