Mar 11, 2024 - News

Armed guards in schools

Illustration of a police uniform standing with no person inside it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Not all Texas school districts have hired armed security officers at all campuses, as required by new state law, because of a lack of funding.

Why it matters: After 19 students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, the Republican-led Legislature passed new mental health and school safety standards last year.

  • A key provision was posting armed officers at all public schools.

Catch up quick: House Bill 3, which went into effect in September, expanded and reinforced existing school safety efforts, such as required mental health training.

  • The law allocated $15,000 per campus and $10 per student, but lawmakers did not approve an additional $800 million to help districts comply with the standards.
  • That left many districts without enough money to hire additional officers, which can cost from $80,000 to $100,000 per year, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.

Yes, but: School districts can vote for good-cause exceptions to the rule by providing an alternative safety plan to the requirements for the time being if they can't afford personnel or find qualified candidates.

The big picture: How many districts have hired a security officer for each campus is unclear.

  • The Texas Education Agency does not require districts to share compliance information, and no entity tracks how many schools in the state use good-cause exceptions to comply with the law.

Zoom in: Northside ISD, the largest in San Antonio, has two officers at each high school, one at every middle school and "geographically clusters" elementary schools with one officer per group, district spokesperson Barry Perez tells Axios.

The intrigue: Other districts that have sought good-cause exceptions include Dallas, Leander and San Antonio ISDs, each approving alternative safety plans such as employing school marshals.

By the numbers: Two decades ago, 108 school districts in Texas had their own police departments.

  • Now, 400 districts, or about a third of all districts in Texas, employ officers.
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