Dallas, Texas – In the wake of newly enacted state legislative mandates, officials from Dallas Independent School District (DISD) find themselves grappling with the logistics of securing both funding and staffing for the mandatory placement of an armed security guard on each of their 230 campuses. A seemingly overwhelming task, they are contemplating the invocation of an available exemption—a legal provision presented in cases of inadequate funding and personnel resources.
Dallas ISD blames widespread and critical shortage of law enforcement officers
Despite receiving recognition for the state’s meager funding allocation for the project, DISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde underscored a more pervasive issue that the state is currently facing—a widespread and critical shortage of law enforcement officers. This shortage, she argues, justifies the consideration for seeking an exemption.
“While certainly dollars are important, remember that this board will never have dollars be an impediment to safety,” Elizalde said at an Aug. 10 news conference, as reported by Community Impact. “Truly the biggest issue is the availability of workforce.”
What is Texas House Bill 3?
Governor Greg Abbott’s recent signing of House Bill 3 into law has precipitated this complex scenario. The legislation mandates that all Texas educational institutions must employ an on-site armed security officer during regular school hours commencing on September 1st. This statutory obligation has sent shockwaves through school districts statewide, forcing them to tackle the financial and logistical challenges of implementing this costly requirement—a burden many educational leaders contend is exacerbated by the state’s drastic underfunding.
Dallas Independent School District to receive $3.6 million annually for hiring security officers
To accommodate the legislative directive, school districts have received a financial package comprising $15,000 in state funding per campus, amounting to approximately $3.6 million annually for DISD, as outlined by Superintendent Elizalde. Additionally, there has been a marginal 28-cent increase in the state’s safety and security allotment for each student, elevating the sum to $10 per student.
Despite these financial measures, the economic burden remains onerous. The comprehensive financial outlay required to sustain the new regulations will surge into the multimillion-dollar range. Dallas Independent School District alone anticipates an expenditure of around $12 million, whilst smaller entities, such as Richardson ISD, are bracing for expenses in the vicinity of $2.5 million.
This intricate legal framework specifies three classifications for those who may be entrusted with the safeguarding of students, staff, and school property.
- School District Peace Officer: Such individuals must be employees of the district itself, holding a license from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and duly commissioned by the very district they serve.
- School Resource Officer: This classification refers to commissioned peace officers, possessing the same training qualifications as traditional peace officers, but employed by a local municipality. Assignment to a specific school district occurs via a contractual agreement forged between the local municipality and the concerned educational district.
- Commissioned Peace Officer Employed as Security Personnel: This category includes off-duty commissioned peace officers, contracted either directly with the district or via a security services contractor licensed under Texas Occupations Code Chapter 1702.
The new law also takes into consideration potential challenges faced by districts, such as fiscal constraints or a dearth of qualified personnel, that may impede the implementation of these security measures. In circumstances deemed insurmountable, the district’s board of trustees may invoke a good-cause exemption. As an example, Elizalde, a prominent official, plans to harness this exemption. Consequently, the district could employ alternatives like school marshals, school guardians (teachers, custodians, etc.), or specially licensed “level three security officers,” who are authorized to bear firearms.
Elizalde’s approach constitutes a clear departure from conventional measures. The district has explicitly opted against the commissioning of school marshals or guardians, instead centering its focus on the recruitment and training of level three security officers. These efforts will be orchestrated through the DISD Police Department, a strategic move aimed at enhancing the training standards and ensuring more than mere firearm handling capabilities.
Even with the training, the level three officers would focus solely on security and emergencies without the power to make arrests, she noted.
Despite this advanced training, level three officers’ jurisdiction will be confined to security and emergency response, devoid of the authority to execute arrests. In an expansion of their roles, existing DISD police sergeants may be deployed to specific sectors of the district, supplementing the conventional patrol officers.
According to Elizalde’s statements during a recent press briefing, the underlying goal of this initiative is to guarantee a response time of no more than five minutes from the district’s police department to any elementary school. This is an interim measure pending the stationing of armed security officers at every campus.
During the inaugural year under this new legal landscape, DISD will employ level three security officers, while concurrently attempting to attract licensed peace officers from diverse jurisdictions to bolster the police department.
Under the aforementioned good-cause exemption, DISD will also be mandated to articulate a three- to five-year strategic roadmap detailing the eventual implementation of armed security guards, reflecting the commitment to a phased and thoughtful approach to enhancing school safety.
Dallas Independent School District announced new real-time school bus tracker
While Dallas ISD faces issues in hiring security officers for the new school year, the school district recently announced new real-time school bus tracker which is expected to improve students’ safety while keeping parents informed in real time. Meanwhile, other North Texas school districts also confirmed they face problems with hiring security officers forcing them to seek help from local private security firms.