With the 2023-2024 school year already underway, a new law will soon require Texas school districts and charter schools to hire at least one armed security guard for every campus.
House Bill 3 by State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock)—which goes into effect September 1—will require schools to provide training to an armed security officer employed by the district using state funds.
The district’s board of trustees will determine the appropriate number of armed security officers for each school. However, the law stipulates that at least one armed guard must be in every school during regular school hours.
If a school district does not have enough funds to implement an armed security guard on each of their campuses, it can claim a “good cause exemption.” The exemption allows for school boards to create alternative programs. This can include using an already-hired school employee who is qualified to serve as a security guard.
To qualify as a security guard, a campus employee must have completed school safety training provided by a qualified handgun instructor and be authorized to carry a handgun on campus.
The measure also requires school district leadership to meet regularly with their law enforcement counterparts to discuss any emergency preparedness and action plans needed to keep students safe. It would additionally appoint an agency monitor to review school districts’ compliance with safety and security measures annually per criteria developed with the Texas School Safety Center.
HB 3 allows school districts to obtain safety technologies, including silent panic alert devices. Schools can also use allocated funds for door and window upgrades, including exterior door numbering and locking systems.
Districts must also create a system for students to report concerning behavior exhibited by another student that school officials must investigate. After officials conduct a threat assessment of students, investigation records will be included in their school records.
The legislation passed through the Texas House nearly one year after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde took the lives of 19 children and two teachers. Burrows said the tragedy spurred lawmakers to action.
“The Uvalde school shooting stole precious children and teachers from their families and made it clear that the state of Texas must make fundamental changes in the way we protect our school communities,” said Burrows.
Burrows also shared that families and teachers from Uvalde said they wanted to have a security officer on campus or be armed themselves.
“Some of the messages we had from the classroom teachers were that they wanted themselves to be able to have security officers or be armed or have protection,” said Burrows. “We did hear from several of the teachers who were across the halls who had bullets come into their classrooms and asked that we take the message back to Austin.”