Parents from the Tanglewood Elementary school in Fort Worth have joined forces with City Council member Michael Crain and local law enforcement officials in their bid for armed security officers to be present at every school in Texas. Their lobbying efforts initiated a pilot program consisting of off-duty Fort Worth police officers, funded by parent donations, who were deployed at Tanglewood Elementary School. Although middle and high school campuses in Fort Worth have school resource officers, elementary schools currently do not. The group recently petitioned members of the state legislature for more funding, backing House Bill 3, a significant piece of school safety legislation currently on hold in committee, mandating that every public school should have a minimum of one armed security officer.
Parents were instrumental in setting up the nonprofit Texans Against School Violence to help address school safety concerns in 2022. Board member Keeton Monahan commented: “We want to advocate for additional funds and show them that we have a roadmap to get that done.” The group, made up of parents, traveled to the Capitol to speak with legislative staff, including Reps. Dustin Burrows and Gary VanDeaver and met with Reps. Brad Buckley, Cody Harris, Charlie Geren, and Greg Bonnen, who are all co-authors of the bill. The board members received enthusiastic feedback from the lawmakers, who showed a keen interest in learning more about their pilot program, including the training officers undergo in preparing to work with children and the use of community police officers during off-duty hours.
The group highlighted the difficulty in obtaining adequate funding, indicating estimated costs that far exceed the current $10 per student earmarked for the armed-school-officer initiative. Charity Aughinbaugh, the organization’s treasurer, confirmed that the legislative staff was informed of the cost implications when realizing the actual number of funds required. Aughinbaugh further added, “They’re actually thinking it through thoroughly and not just thinking $10 per student is going to be beneficial.”
While the legislation still requires passage through both houses before becoming law, House Speaker Dade Phelan previously reported a priority towards House Bill 3 earlier this session.
The Tanglewood Elementary School pilot program’s founder and current President, Amber Spurgeon, commented that she had seen “many positive things” erupt from the pilot program in place since late last year, adding that the current model should be replicated throughout the state. Spurgeon said, “We want to use our model and implement it in every school district, in every police department, and in every city.”