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Act creates school marshal position in Texas

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first installment in a series of articles that will take a look at the implementation of the Texas Protection of Children Act, its effectiveness and some of the problems with the special “frangible ammunition” school marshals created by the bill are required to use.

By Rich Macke

The News publisher

During the morning hours of Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and fatally shot 20 children as well as six adult members of the staff. It was the deadliest mass school shooting in U.S. history.

The incident set off concerns nation-wide and became the calling card for changes to safety protocol for school districts, including right here in Texas.

At the time, Texas State Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas, a  father of two young school aged children, said on his website: “law enforcement officers cannot be everywhere at all times. In active shooter situations, we need an option for reducing initial response times from minutes to seconds.”

Just 50 days after the Sandy Hook shootings, Villalba introduced legislation to address the problem, authoring and on Feb. 13, 2014, filling House Bill 1009. According to his website, “The bill, better known as Protection of Texas Children Act, creates a new subset of law enforcement officer called school marshals who will serve as the last line of defense should an armed attacker threaten the lives of children in public schools.”

Requests for an interview with Rep. Villalba about HB1009 were denied.

On May 22, 2013, the Texas Senate passed the law 28-3 and it was signed into law on June 4, 2013, by Gov. Rick Perry, just four months after it was filed.

Key provisions of the law are:

1) The program will be optional for school districts – NOT mandated by the state.
2) The plan expands law enforcement into schools by providing comprehensive and specified training for certain volunteer school employees so that they may serve as licensed law enforcement officers in schools (“school marshals”).
3) School marshal training will include mental health evaluation, active shooter and emergency situation training and firearms proficiency requirements, in each case, as developed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. These training standards will require 80 hours of classroom and simulation modules, 10 times the amount currently required by concealed handgun license standards.
4) License renewal will be required every two years. Such license renewal would include mental health re-evaluation, active shooter and emergency situation recertification, and firearms proficiency training as developed by Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.
5) School marshals will only be authorized to act in response to an active shooter or other immediate threat to human life on school grounds. Any firearm accessible to a School Marshal will remain locked in a safe, within immediate reach of the school marshal, if he or she works in a classroom or in the direct presence of children.
6) Participants in the program will be volunteers — a teacher, administrator, coach, or other member of the faculty — who receive permission from the school administration to serve as a school marshal.
7) The cost of training and certification will be paid by the school marshal, unless grant money is identified and directed for this purpose. These costs will not be paid out of general state revenue.
8) School marshals will be required to use frangible ammunition, designed to disintegrate upon contact with hard surfaces, minimizing the risk of errant shots that ricochet or might otherwise go through an interior wall.
9) School Marshals will be covert, known only to the head school administrator and local law enforcement authorities.

Special notice should be taken with point No. 8 which states. “School Marshals will be required to use frangible ammunition, designed to disintegrate upon contact with hard surfaces, minimizing the risk of errant shots that ricochet or might otherwise go through an interior wall”.
The actual bill, in paragraph 3 letter (d), reads, “The written regulations must also require that a handgun carried by or within access of a school marshal may be loaded only with frangible ammunition designed to disintegrate on impact for maximum safety and minimal danger to others.”

The use of erroneous information to create law can have disastrous results.  The most commonly encountered forms of “frangible ammunition” cannot be expected to “disintegrate on impact for maximum safety and minimal danger to others”.

In the next story of this series, we will go into depth sharing facts about frangible ammunition and the reasons why legislators should correct this absolutely errant mistake before it is too late and a child or innocent bystander is killed.