More Texas school districts opting out of new law for armed guards in schools
(The Center Square) – Many of the largest school districts in Texas are going to ask for a “good cause exception” to a new state law that would require an armed resource officer on every campus.
The new bill will go into effect Sept. 1, 2023, and requires each campus to have a school district police officer, school resource officer, or a commissioned peace officer that is employed as security personnel on campus during regular school hours.
The law may require the hiring of hundreds of police officers and add millions of dollars to the school district payrolls around the state for more than 9,100 campuses and more than 1,200 school districts.
The San Antonio school district became one of the first districts to consider a good cause exception.
At the Aug. 21 meeting, the San Antonio ISD board voted unanimously to ask for a “good cause exception” from the bill signed into law on June 14, 2023, by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Each campus can claim a “good cause exception” due to lack of funding. The districts will then provide an alternative plan.
San Antonio Independent School District Police Chief Johnny Reyes Jr. said there is a shortage of qualified police candidates and a lack of money to pay for the extra hires necessary to meet the law’s mandate.
Reyes Jr. said he currently had 58 officers and had 10 openings.
"In the state of Texas over the summer, I had the opportunity to go to several trainings and conferences. In speaking with my counter-partners out here, other chiefs of police, we are facing the same thing we are just unable to find qualified personnel and hire them,” Reyes told the city council. “We face that as an industry.”
A newly hired police officer within the San Antonio school district would make $53,185 a year in salary. By comparison, a first level teacher within the district makes between $57,500 and $59,500, depending on level of education.
The law is funded with $15,000 per campus for the next two years.
Dallas Independent School District stated in August it has officers assigned to all secondary campuses. The district said it was seeking the exemption and would need 167 additional officers and additional funding to comply with the new law.
The Center Square polled some of the state's largest school districts and found many will be asking for an exception from the new law.
Northside Independent School District has not decided on whether a good cause exemption will be utilized. NISD maintains its own Police Dept. with just over 100 fully commissioned officers. With two officers at every high school (12), one at each middle school (21), and all of elementary campuses (82) grouped geographically with one officer assigned to each geographic cluster. The last estimation is approximately 75 additional officers would be needed to have one assigned full-time at each campus.
The Board approved an additional 20 police officer allocations last week.Plano Independent School District is looking to hire 49 school marshals as well as claiming the good cause exception.San Antonio Independent School District Board of Trustees approved the district claiming a statutory good cause exception due to a lack of qualified personnel. Their district police force currently has 58 officers, and to comply, would need to hire approximately 61 additional officers. Killeen Independent School District is not currently seeking good cause exception.
Ector County Independent School District board approved a resolution for a good cause exception, citing lack of available funding and lack of qualified personnel to meet this requirement.Northeast Independent School District campus will have an armed safety specialist who will patrol and monitor school grounds as well as make sure that doors are properly locked, campus security cameras are operational, and fencing and parking lots are secure.
The specialists will also lead safety drills and trainings and assist campus staff during student arrival and dismissal.Fort Worth Independent School District is seeking a good cause exception. The district stated it would have to hire 77 additional school resource officers to meet the law's requirements.IDEA Public Schools is not seeking a good cause exception.
The district stated in an email to The Center Square, "IDEA is currently exploring partnering with local law enforcement offices and vetting third-party vendors with the goal of satisfying this requirement at all school sites by the end of the first quarter."Conroe Independent School District will consider a good cause exception at its Sept. 15 school board meeting. The district has 76 officers and 67 campuses.Aldine Independent School District has campuses covered with 66 fulltime and six part-time armed police officers that patrol the campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Houston Independent School District is seeking a good cause exception. The district currently has an armed officer at all high school and middle school campuses and a patrol officer at every elementary school campus that responds, covers, and provides visibility. The district is hiring more officers.
Texas Education Authority and the Texas Police Association did not respond to a request for comment.