School safety is a concern for staff, students and parents. After the Uvalde tragedy last year, school districts across Texas made efforts to ensure a safe return to school. On Jan. 5, a new bill was filed in Austin regarding the carrying of concealed handguns on school campuses.
Senate Bill 354, if approved, would go into effect on Sept. 1, 2023 and restricts school districts from adopting rules banning licensed employees from carrying concealed weapons on school grounds.
Texas law currently allows school districts to choose between the “Texas school guardian program” established in 2009, which lets certain faculty members carry guns on school premises, and the “school marshal program,” set in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2013, that allows for licensed employees to carry guns volunteer as school protectors.
Senator Bob Hall explained in an official statement that the bill is part of a legislative package aimed at addressing school and border security. “Senate Bill 354, Campus Carry, would simply allow law-abiding citizens with a license-to-carry in schools in the places that are currently banned, such as inside school buildings, or on grounds or buildings where school-sponsored activities are happening,” stated Senator Hall. “This would be a critical measure that bans gun-free zones on school grounds that act as magnets towards those who wish violence against our children and educators.”
As previously mentioned by Local Profile, one month ago Keller ISD school board approved a policy that will allow teachers and staff to carry concealed firearms on school campuses under the school guardian program. According to KHOU 11, other schools across the state are also strengthening safety measures after the Texas Education Agency proposed all schools in Texas use panic button technology.
While the TEA-recommended policy might be better welcomed among teachers, Bill 354 is already being disputed both by staff, teacher unions and faculty members.
The Faculty Senate at Texas Tech University quickly drafted a resolution with 95% of votes in favor that states that “It is the sentiment of the Faculty Senate that we oppose legislation currently in the Texas legislature, Senate Bill 354, that concerns concealed carry handguns on university campuses in Texas.”
Rena Honea, president of the Dallas education employees union Alliance-AFT told the Dallas Observer that a poll conducted among professionals in the organization showed that 77% of polled teachers did not feel safe with guns on school premises. “Teachers cannot be expected to become highly trained law enforcement officers and use guns in a crisis without endangering students or themselves,” Honea said.
Similarly, Casey Boland, a Richardson ISD teacher, told the Dallas Observer that human error is a big part of why teachers and employees believe arming schools is dangerous. “Theft, negligence, etc., is too likely, and, unless a teacher also has combat military or SWAT experience, they are not qualified to use a weapon in an active shooter situation,” said Boland. “I’m more than a little leery of those who think a concealed carry license equates to that level of experience.”