DALLAS, Texas — It is becoming a world where locked school doors, intercom entry systems, electronic card entry keys, and security cameras just are not enough to ensure student safety. Horrific incidents like Columbine, the Isla Vista shooting, Sandy Hook, and the 2012 rampage of an under aged madman in Newtown, CT, that left 20 youngsters and six teachers dead, prompted some states to enact new laws that ensure stricter school safety. It also allowed school marshals and select teachers to conceal and carry weapons, armed with a whole new pinch of prevention for the upcoming school year.
It is happening in the most surprising of places too — like California, the only state to simultaneously lift a health law so that Fido can go to restaurants while stripping away Fido’s owner’s Second Amendment rights with the controversial AB 1014, the “gun violence restraining order.”
In places like Compton, it is not just a rough neighborhood. The south of South Central downtown LA inner city community is known for high crime. It is the birthplace of notorious gangs like the Blood and the Crips. It’s home to a subculture of Latino gangs. Students are coming back to school with campus police equipped with semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, KPCC-FM reported.
Yes, this is happening in the barely-carry state of California where AR-15 rifles are perpetually under fire from anti-gun activists. However, Compton Unified School District Police Chief William Wu explained to the community that the objective for the use of the semi-automatic rifle is to “save lives, bottom line.” according to the Southern California public radio station report.
The fact that the Californian officers can even carry the rifles while on duty is huge. Of course, also being California, the rifles must stay in their patrol car trunks.
Still, the backlash against the new policy has begun. Compton Democratic Club founder Francisco Orozco slammed the decision as an unnecessary escalation of weaponry. In doing so, he also pointed out the irony of gun rights for police officers in California. “The school police have not even earned the right to carry handguns,” Orozco also told KPCC-FM.
Joe Grubbs, president of the California Association of School Resource Officers, added that outfitting school police and local police who patrol campuses with rifles is becoming more common.
LAist.com included the Los Angeles Unified School District (USD), Baldwin Park USD, Santa Ana USD, and San Bernadino USD as districts that have authorized campus police to deploy weapons.
In 2013, the Inland Empire suburb of Fontana, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, allowed their district’s campus police to buy 14 AR-15 rifles. In California fashion, they have to lock them in a safe, CBS-2 Los Angeles reported.
Meanwhile, in Missouri, students are returning from summer break to a lot more armed teachers who received five hours of classroom training and 35 hours in the gun range over the summer to be able to defend students in the event of a school shooting.
According to CBS News, local school boards around the state can decide whether faculty can be weaponized, although “when the semester begins, only the police and the school board will know they’re armed.” This is something decided long before unrelated and recent violence in Ferguson.
Fox News cited that 40 hours of Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol training for two staffers came with a $17,500 price tag based on a Kansas City Star report. Instructors are current law enforcement officers with Shield Solutions. Company founder Greg Martin, stated “only school district administrators and local law enforcement will know the identity of the teachers trained to pack heat.”
Ten school districts signed up for the training. Three more have signed contracts, according to the report. “Like air marshals on planes,” Martin toldthe newspaper. “How many hijackings have we had since 9/11?”
Not all districts are on board. CBS News also reported on a high school math teacher in Columbia who was not in favor of this policy and was more concerned about teacher’s carrying guns than the bad guys on a rampage. She wasn’t against use of weapons but would have preferred that the good guys with the guns were police officers and not teachers. Her district prohibited teachers from carrying guns.
Then, there is Texas where a new state law permits for concealed handguns on campus in a Marshal plan that’s rolling out, although a lot of school districts are instead opting to just beef up security. “Let’s focus on the things we can control, which is the day-to-day security, like locking the doors,” Dallas Independent School District (ISD) Police Chief Craig Miller said, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Dallas ISD is the sixth largest school district in the nation. The Marshal program is the result of the Protection of Texas Children Act authored by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas). It allows for trained teachers to keep a firearm in a lockbox “within immediate reach” Breitbart News reported. “It also allots one armed marshal per 400 students and contains provisions to hide the name of that marshal from public record, to keep him or her from being purposefully targeted in an attack,” the article stated.
The law was challenged by state representative Joe Pickett (D-El Paso) forcing an opinion from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who upheld the authority of the law, also clarifying issues Pickett raised, which Breitbart Texas staff writer Bob Price broke down point by point.
Over the summer, the first training took place. CBS DFW reported on exercises held at Richardson ISD. Dallas ISD police chief Craig Miller helped design the curriculum, which included 80 hours of law enforcement style training, including active shooter drills, and over 700 rounds at the range.
Miller, himself, expressed having mixed emotions about the program, preferring law enforcement over marshals or teachers in this capacity. As it is the law, he told CBS-11 that he was intent on ensuring that marshals had the proper training.
Sixty school districts have expressed interest in this training, mainly small rural districts where they don’t have a police force or don’t have close proximity to one. Miller told the CBS-11 that the school marshal program is designed for these kinds of school districts.
“It’s not designed for Dallas or Houston or Fort Worth or Austin or San Antonio,” he said.
Certainly, safe school zones, heightened surveillance and locked down styles of security haven’t exactly been replaced by the new Marshal plan, which Villalba intended as an added layer of protection. He disagreed with Miller’s position. “I think in five years time you’re going to see most of the ISDs around the state of Texas in some form of this program,” he told the Dallas CBS affiliate.
Childress ISD and Shamrock ISD are two of those rural school districts. Argyle ISD is located in the DFW suburban Denton County. They implemented the Marshal plan.
In October 2007, the small Harrold ISD in Northwest Texas instituted a “Guardian” plan that allowed classroom teachers to conceal and carry. It was the brainchild of school superintendent David Thweatt who told Fox News in 2012, “We’re 18 miles and 30 minutes from the nearest police station,” adding “So we are the first responders. If something happened here, we would have to protect our children.”
Guardians are similar to marshals but not the same. In the Texas Attorney General’s opinion, it was also determined that the Guardian plan was not in conflict with the new school Marshal program. FXDX-3, the Texoma NBC affiliate, reported that the Guardian plan is now in 70 of the state’s school districts.
Sadly, schools today must consider unimaginable threats. Parents, district officials and lawmakers have to think one step ahead in what is often a loaded topic. Not everyone agrees with the arming the educators. Perhaps, though, the rationale to best sum up this difficult reality of our times was expressed by Texas Senator Brian Birdwell (R-District 22) in the Breitbart News article. He called the concern over law-abiding citizens possessing guns on campus as misdirected: “The Second Amendment is not about the gun, it’s about the right to self-preservation.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.