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Texas school marshals: A look at the program that trains teachers to carry guns at school

Only 62 of the more than 1,200 school districts in Texas take part in the program, but TCOLE is doubling the number of training opportunities this summer.

ROUND ROCK, Texas — The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) held a School Safety Showcase on Tuesday at Walsh Middle School in Round Rock. The program they focused the most on was the Texas School Marshal Program.

This program was created in 2013 and allows school staff to get trained and certified to carry guns on campus in order to protect students if needed. Districts can opt in to allow staff to get certified by going through a training held by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Right now, 62 school districts take part in the program, which is only about 5% of all districts in the state. In total, there are 256 school marshals statewide.

Dr. Benny Soileau is the superintendent of Huffman ISD near Houston. He’s also a school marshal through the Texas School Marshal Program.

“We all have concerns about putting guns in our schools,” said Dr. Soileau. “But at the same time, we know that these events are on the rise and we have to have a way of combatting this.”

There is no cap on the number of school marshals a district can have. Depending on the district, school marshals can either have the gun on their person or they can store it in a lockbox.

Last summer, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement held two trainings for districts to send people to in order to be school marshals. This year, they are holding four training opportunities.

“I have not heard any yet that an actual school marshal stopped an active shooter event,” said Janna Atkins, the TCOLE commissioner and West Central Texas Law Enforcement Academy training coordinator.

To become a school marshal, you go through 80 hours of training, a firearms test, a psychological exam, a written test, and you must have a have a state handgun license. You also go through scenario-based training and have to take a 16-hour training to get recertified every two years. But even the people who help lead these trainings say this is just a piece of the puzzle.

“I don’t know that guns are the answer honestly,” said Atkins. “It may be a part, but there are other things there too.”

That is one reason why they also had Round Rock ISD’s director of behavioral health at the school safety showcase.

“We all know, those of us in the field, that the earlier we intervene, the better, so that we can prevent a crisis situation,” said Amy Grosso, the director of behavioral health services at Round Rock ISD. “That is not just an active shooter situation, it is a suicide crisis. So, the earlier we intervene the more we can save students’ lives.”

A simulation like the one at this showcase is hard to watch because this fake training scenario is all too similar to what actually has happened here in Texas schools, and what we hope to never see again.

“Hopefully we never have to activate our marshal program,” said Soileau. “But in the event that we do, I think that we will be prepared to do so.”

TCOLE said they have not updated any school marshal or school resource officer training since Uvalde. They said they are looking at whether the training was an issue or if there was a misapplication of training.

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