Texas schools have been unable to install armed officers on every campus, a requirement that materialized following last year’s deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Immediately after the shooting, the state — and the nation — were divided on how best to ensure the safety of children in schools as the scourge of gun violence continued to plague the classroom. Texas lawmakers sewed a vision of having at least one armed officer on every campus across the state’s school districts to serve as a first line of defense before traditional law enforcement could arrive.
These lawmakers even passed a law requiring the presence of armed officers, but their mandate, which took effect Friday, has run into several roadblocks such as the schools not having enough money or available personnel.
Dozens of Texas’ largest school districts, responsible for educating many of the state’s 5 million students, have been forced to start their new school years and reopen classrooms without meeting the state’s new requirements.
Texas has nearly 9,000 public school campuses, second only to California, making the requirement the largest of its kind in the U.S.
The mandate was included in House Bill 3, a safety bill Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June.
Abbott’s office told Fox News Digital that safety at schools and for the community “remains a top priority” for the governor.
“Keeping our schools and communities safe remains a top priority for Governor Abbott, which is why he made school safety an emergency item for the 88th Regular Legislative Session,” said Abbott spokesperson Andrew Mahaleris. “Working with the Texas Legislature, Governor Abbott signed HB 3 into law this year to provide schools with the resources they need to ensure safe learning environments for students and educators. HB 3 allows for flexibility when school districts have difficulty finding licensed peace officers, with programs like the school marshal and guardian programs. The Texas Education Agency’s new Office of Safety and Security is working directly with school districts to ensure campuses are using these initiatives to their full potential.”
He added: “Governor Abbott will continue working with the legislature to expand school safety initiatives and ensure all Texas students can thrive.”
Stephanie Elizalde, superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, which has more than 140,000 students, said she supports the idea of the added security but said the state did not supply enough money to meet its own requirement.
“We all support the idea,” Elizalde told The Associated Press. “The biggest challenge for all superintendents is that this is yet again an unfunded mandate.”
Local school officials told AP that Texas gave districts about $15,000 per campus, but the sum is hardly sufficient. In Dallas, Elizalde said an extra $75,000 is needed for each additional officer in Texas’ second-largest district.
Some districts have also turned to private security firms or have armed more staff and teachers.
“This is probably new to everybody at this stage of the game. It’s expensive,” said Charles Hollis, director of operations at L&P Global Security in Dallas, which until this year had not put guards at public schools.
Not only is funding for officers an issue, others are not finding enough of them to fill thousands of openings across the U.S. amid an ongoing national shortfall of officers.
Florida became the first state to pass a requirement to have an armed officer on school campuses following 2018’s deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The new Texas law does not require districts to report compliance, so there is no official record showing how many schools are or are not meeting the standard.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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