The first class of teachers and school administrators training to become armed school marshals in Texas began this week in Fort Worth. The Dallas Morning News reports that seven educators from rural districts and urban-area schools will participate in 80 hours of training that includes firearms use, violence prevention and active-shooter scenarios at Tarrant County College's Northwest Campus.
HB 1009, the Protection of Texas Children Act,sponsored by state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), was passed last year by a vote of 123-22 in the Texas House and in the Senate by a vote of 27-4. It was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry June 14, 2013. Known generally as a "guardian plan," the measure permits armed protection — usually by teachers or staff — for smaller, rural schools that don't have the funding to provide full-time security officers, or to contract with local authorities for part-time police. Potential school marshals must be an employee of a school district or public charter school, have a concealed handgun license and be appointed by their board of trustees.
On April 18 of this year, Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled it is permissible for designated school employees to carry concealed firearms at school board meetings and sporting events under the provisions of HB 1009. In October 2013, state Rep. Joe Pickett, (D-El Paso), who chairs House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, formally requested the Attorney General to determine if guardian plans, which require the employee to obtain a concealed handgun permit, conflict with a state law that bars concealed handgun license holders from carrying firearms at high school sporting events or meetings of a governmental body.
Under the provision, individual school boards must vote on participating in such a program. Presently, about 10 rural districts have created guardian plans. Abbott's opinion noted that BH 1009 permits schools to grant written exceptions to the standing state law that bans guns on school premises and in buildings where school-sponsored events are held. The limits at sporting events or board meetings "are not violated when a person is lawfully carrying a handgun pursuant to a school board's written regulations," the opinion read. Further, Abbott's opinion stated that school board trustees could act as armed guardians because the job falls "within the scope of official duties."
"No provision in House Bill 1009 conflicts with or is in any way inconsistent with subsection 46.03(a)(l) of the Penal Code," stated Friday's opinion from the Attorney General."Accordingly, a school board may appoint one person to serve as a school marshal under section 37.0811 of the Education Code and authorize another person to serve under the district's regulations and authorization under subsection 46.03(a)(l) of the Penal Code."