The school district in Uvalde, Texas, had an extensive safety plan in place when nineteen children were killed. The killer accessed an open door and killed children and teachers for about 74 minutes while police officers allegedly refused to enter the barricaded room where the slaughter was taking place. These things occurred even though Uvalde’s spending on school security and monitoring services in Uvalde more than doubled since 2017, rising from about $200,000 to about $435,000 for the current school year, according to school budget documents.
The district adopted an array of security measures that included its own police force, threat assessment teams at each school, a threat reporting system, social media monitoring software, fences around schools and a requirement that teachers lock their classroom doors, according to the security plan posted on the district’s website. Texas police are now saying that the armed school officer who was first reported to have engaged the gunman in a firefight was not on campus when the shooting started.
Despite the detailed planning, there were no School Marshals or Guardians in place as authorized pursuant to Texas state statutes. There were school resource officers, presumably armed. SROs are a good thing. So are surveillance systems and controlled entrances, gates and fences. Social media monitoring and so many other components of good security for schools were all in place in Uvalde, Texas.
The difference with School Marshals is that they are embedded as regular employees working as specially trained school staff, faculty, administrative and support personnel such as maintenance and kitchen workers. Uvalde probably did not have armed personnel working as regular non-uniformed employees, trained to protect with deadly force. Regular employees such as faculty & staff can be trained to carry concealed and protect everyone in a school or church while working in non-security roles.
Think of the outcry when the Air Marshal program was first proposed after the attacks on the World Trade Center. How many commercial jetliner hijackings have occurred since that program was inaugurated many years ago? Cabins would depressurize from accidental discharges and all kinds of other catastrophes could occur from arming plain clothes federal agents to be embedded on random flights disguised as regular passengers.
With proposals to arm pilots who chose to be armed, more cries ensued that jetliners would fall out of the sky. The fact that such Chicken-Little mentality has now been proven to be totally without any basis in reality raises the issue of whether the naysayers were just afraid that successful programs like the Air Marshal program might demonstrate that armed citizens can be trained to handle firearms; i.e., to be part of the solution and therefore undermine their message that guns are the real problem.
Texas has two such programs. One is called the School Marshal program. The other is the Guardian program. Both involve training that meets specific criteria and certification. It looks like Uvalde chose uniformed officers instead. It takes about 56 hours to certify pilots to carry in the cockpit. They train with live-fire and simunitions in a mock-up of a commercial jetliner. The Texas School Marshals get similar specialized training designed for classrooms and other school facilities. Most the scenarios in both the Texas School Marshal program and the federal Air Marshal training is that both anticipate the potential for large numbers of students or passengers to obstruct lines of sight and get caught in the crossfire.
The State of Texas provided the Uvalde School District with a huge budget. Most the money probably went to salaries for a large contingent of SROs. The two programs, Texas Guardian program and School Marshal program, cost only a fraction of what school resource officers cost! That is because “embedded” personnel already receive a salary for performing other necessary duties, like teaching or maintaining the school.
School districts that can afford to deploy SROs or pay for additional full-time campus police protection should still consider arming other school personnel. Killers will identify and target uniformed personnel. There is also now a history of SROs and other law enforcement failing to act. Parkland was another debacle where uniformed officers serving as full-time guardians of a school failed to act. When LEOs and/or SROs do intervene, they risk being killed because they are easy to identify and can be taken by surprise.
An armed janitor or teacher can surprise the killer by simply remaining with the students and waiting for the right opportunity. The Texas Guardians are not trained, nor are they encouraged, to apprehend or seek out the active killer. Training to take cover, shoot proficiently and to be safely armed and hide or lead students to safety is the best way to prepare the average person who is not called to be a commissioned police officer. Limited law enforcement commissions might be appropriate. What is most needed, however, is a recognized training program, with certification, and laws that limit personal liability and provide immunity to school districts that choose to empower school personnel to take on a School Marshal role.
We originally proposed that Sheriff’s Associations in each state help design and advocate for the legislation we are proposing. School Districts should also be running with the ball on this. But it now appears that it will take Congressional legislation with federal training programs, federal funds and immunization from legal liability for districts that choose to avail themselves of the program. There may be Constitutional objections to a federal statute that limits liability for local school districts. This is a legitimate objection and can be resolved by allowing each state to decide whether to adopt a Uniform School Protection Immunity Act. Such Uniform laws are already drafted by committees of lawyers and adopted by most states. Uniform Child Support Enforcement laws and Child Custody Jurisdiction laws are examples. States might adopt minor changes that modify the proposed uniform legislation.
One advantage of uniform legislation is that insurance premiums for Districts deploying School Marshals will become more affordable. Additionally, provider firms offering School Marshal training to school personnel from all fifty states will create economies of scale, national competition and professional standards that will improve rapidly with state and federal oversight.
If you are interested in creating a group to shepherd such legislation into existence please reach out through the contact information in this website or by direct messaging on Twitter or Facebook. We have already had success talking to many of the Sheriffs in Washington. The problem we all realize is that Washington’s legislature will never embrace any proposal to arm any citizens no matter how well trained they are. Such proposed legislation will never be reported out of committee. Districts can presently authorize volunteers to protect the schools. But the insurance companies will balk at coverage and the liability is huge when inevitable mistakes are made.
The opposition to our proposals is likely to be very muted in Congress after the November, 2022 election. Let’s start enlisting supporters in Congress, schools and law enforcement now.