School districts across the state are being offered another line of defense in the event of an active shooter situation following the Uvalde school shooting that left 21 people dead.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, TCOLE, is partnering and offering an increased number of training courses to participating districts looking to add school commissioners to their campuses.
TCOLE held a simulation for reporters at Round Rock on Monday morning.
It’s a simulation that’s become too real in Texas and across the country:
A gunman enters a school library and opens fire on unsuspecting students. However, in this scenario, the first line of defense was already on campus. An armed school marshal is seen opening fire on the shooter before police arrive.
The Texas Legislature allows public school districts, open-entry charter schools, public junior colleges, and private schools to appoint school trustees through TCOLE’s school trustee program.
School trustees are not school resources of sworn police officers, but rather employees of a school district who have been selected and agreed to undergo training to become a school trustee.
Requirements include being an employee of a school district, having a current carry permit, being approved by a governing body, passing a psychological exam (L3), taking the 80-hour school marshal course, submitting the form of school marshal appointment and fees, and take a 16-hour renewal course every two years, according to TCOLE.
School commissioners are often staff members with military or police training and/or someone who is known to remain calm during high stress situations.
TCOLE oversees the program and says more schools have shown interest since the Uvalde massacre, the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. The police response to the mass shooting was described as “an abject failure” by the DPS chief.
TCOLE Deputy Chief Cullen Grissom said he wanted the simulation near Austin to highlight their program and make sure more districts know how it works.
Dr. Benny Soileau is the superintendent of Huffman ISD, a small district near Houston.
The district has its own police force, a police chief and two officers, but chose to add school marshals.
The superintendent himself chose to train and become a school marshal following the 2018 school shooting near Santa Fe that left ten people dead.
“In the event that something horrible like this happens, we believe we will be better prepared to respond,” he said.
Soileau would not comment on the number of school marshals in his district, he said, for security reasons.
So far, the May massacre at Robb Elementary has only led TCOLE to double the number of trainings offered to districts in the state to four, but the shootings and police response have only did not lead to changes in the training itself.
“We’re still looking at what came out of the Uvalde tragedy, what the implications are: was training the problem or was it the misapplication of training,” Grissom said.
TCOLE will only say that there are 256 school commissioners in 62 districts in the state for safety reasons.
According to the commission spokesperson, 11 other districts have staff enrolled in courses this summer.
The training lasts approximately 60 days and includes classroom instruction as well as hands-on training involving simulations such as Mondays.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement offers more training for districts that want to add school commissioners to their campuses.