For Texas conservatives, armed teachers are a solution to school shootings
In the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s school shooting in Texas, conservative politicians responded by pushing again to arm school officials to protect students — a notion that has raised strong objections among teachers, researchers and gun control activists.
“We can arm, prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly, because the reality is that we don’t have the resources to have law enforcement in every school,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told Fox News on Tuesday.
Texas has already launched such training, the School Marshal Program, which allows teachers and administrators to carry handguns after 80 hours of training at academies overseen by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
The program was adopted in 2013 and extended under Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican. There are now 256 school trustees in Texas, up from 34 before a high school shooting in Santa Fe near Houston in 2018, the Commission said.
Wylie Independent School District Vice-Principal Craig Bessent was first formed in 2014, and while Marshals’ identities are generally concealed, he acts as something of a spokesperson for the program.
“We have school trustees on every campus in our district, even pre-K. Some, we have more than one,” Bessent said from his Abilene office in West Dallas, where the Wylie District has eight campuses.
“I carry my handgun on me, in a hidden way. If we have to react like in a case that happened yesterday, we are always ready.”
But while Bessent says his district marshals have responded to “a lot” of issues, including with upset parents, he stressed they see themselves as a “de-escalation” force. and never discharged their weapons.
According to the Commission, the requirements to become a marshal are to be a school employee, to pass a psychological examination and to have a port permit.
Prospective marshals undergo training that includes weapons proficiency and “active shooter response”, he said, but declined to share his training material with Reuters.
Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for details on the program’s scope and measures of success.