While Democrats in the Lone Star State’s legislature are demanding their Republican colleagues enact a host of gun control measures to improve school safety, including a ban on sales of semi-automatic rifles to adults younger than 21, one school district in central Texas is taking a more substantive approach to keeping kids safe on campus.
This week the San Marcos Independent School District voted to establish a School Marshal program that will ensure an armed presence at each of the city’s eight elementary schools. With the 6-1 vote the district joins dozens of others across the state that have adopted either the School Marshal or Guardian programs, both of which allow for armed school staff to serve as a first line of defense in case of a targeted attack on a school campus.
In this case, it sounds like San Marcos may not have had another option if it wanted to maintain an armed response in schools. The San Marcos school district currently utilizes off-duty officers for that purpose, but once the School Marshal program those resource officers will go away. The local police chief says that’s not the ideal situation, but believes those resources are needed elsewhere in the city.
To be hired as marshals, applicants would be required to have certification from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. The marshals will also take part in regular training through the San Marcos Police Department, according to district officials and San Marcos police Chief Stan Standridge, who spoke during the Monday school board meeting.
Standridge, the San Marcos police chief, said he agreed the best solution would be to have more uniformed school resource officers on the district’s campuses. He said the city doesn’t have the resources to make that happen, mainly due to swift population growth in San Marcos that has contributed to an increase in violent crime.
If school officials asked for more school resource officers, “even if I had the additional officers, we would not assign them to campuses,” Standridge said. “Why? Because we need them in the field responding to 911 to mitigate this remarkable increase in violent crime.”
The population of San Marcos has exploded in recent decades, with a 50% increase in the number of residents reported between the 2010 and 2020 censuses. The city’s police department has not been able to keep up with the rise in population, with Standridge complaining last year that staffing levels in his department were far below what’s needed.
According to the Advisory Panel, the San Marcos Police Department has faced staffing issues for over 10 years now, resulting in an insufficient number of officers to attend to crimes. San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge expressed the difficulty staffing issues have caused for the police department.
“We have as many as 25% of our workforce out, meaning they’re functionally not working because of COVID, family medical leave, or long-term injury,” Standridge said. “I’m greatly concerned because we have unprecedented crime numbers in San Marcos at a time when staffing couldn’t be worse.”
Ideally the San Marcos schools would have both SROs and armed school staff, which researcher Dr. J. Eric Dietz of Purdue University’s Homeland Security Institute says is the fastest and most effective way to stop an active shooter on a campus. But if that’s not an option in San Marcos because of the staffing issues, at least having those trained and vetted staffers in place will provide some ability to respond within seconds, not minutes.
We’re going to be talking more about armed school staff next week on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co with FASTER Colorado’s Laura Carno, but be sure to check out more on the San Marcos situation in the video window below, as well as an update to an armed citizen story involving an Iowa mom who prevented her child from being abducted earlier this year. We’re also taking a closer look at the mob violence last weekend in Chicago and the Good Samaritan who stepped in to help save a couple after police allegedly drove right past the attack on a young couple without stopping.