The number of school marshals in Texas has quintupled since Santa Fe HS shooting in May
ABILENE, Texas —
After the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting in May, the number of school marshals in Texas went from 33 to 165 over the summer.
The Texas Education Agency issued a letter to all school districts in Texas, encouraging them to identify personnel willing to participate in the school marshal program, and those who completed their training from June to August had it completely paid for by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division.
"You have to practice, practice, practice and go through different scenarios so that you’re ready to make the best decision you can,” said a newly-trained school marshal from Southeast Texas.
School marshals, who must remain anonymous to the general public, are required to have a license to carry a firearm and pass a psychiatric evaluation before they go through 80 hours of hands-on training.
Recently, a group of school marshals earned their certification through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement at a school in Pflugerville, which included the use of a semi-automatic pistol that shoots rubber bullets.
Wylie Independent School District Assistant Superintendent Craig Bessent said that many employees within Wylie ISD volunteered to become a part of the school marshal program.
"These decisions are unique to every community out there, I think people need to come together and talk about whether it is right for your community, do you have the right personnel that's capable,” said another anonymous school marshal.
However, not all teachers in Texas agree with having guns on campus.
Educators like Reagan Elementary School teacher Tonja Gray prefer preventing gun violence by focusing on detecting the warning signs of troubled students and training teachers on how to watch for those warning signs.
"It's very difficult for me. I have talked to a lot of educators around the state recently about their feelings and we're all very divided. As a teacher, I can't imagine shooting a student," said Gray.
Gray said that teachers are also concerned about the liability of shooting a student and the trauma that may accompany it.
However, school marshals feel like the response time from law enforcement is not fast enough during a school shooting.
The average length of a school shooting is about 12 minutes, while the response time for law enforcement can be anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes.
“We're here as the ‘stop gap’ between when the police can arrive. If we have someone on the campus at that time, we have a better chance,” said an anonymous school marshal.