Texas lawmakers advanced a bill this week that would compensate school employees with stipends of up to $25,000 per school year for being trained to carry a weapon on K-12 campuses and buses. Called the "school sentinel” program, it would also require training on "mental health first aid" and trauma-informed care.
The bipartisan measure passed the state's House of Representatives Tuesday in an overwhelming 125-21 vote, about a month shy of the one-year anniversary of the Robb Elementary School massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, last May.
Currently, Texas allows the arming of teachers through its voluntary school marshal program, which passed in 2013 following the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting in Connecticut a year prior. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which oversees the program, increased the number of training opportunities for that program in the months following the tragedy at Robb Elementary.
Arming school teachers, or making it easier to do so, has become a common response to the increasing prevalence of school shootings.
Just months following the Uvalde shooting, for example, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation making it easier for teachers to carry firearms in his state’s schools by cutting the number of maximum initial training hours required.
The latest proposal out of Texas comes amid recent measures pushing for more armed personnel on school grounds nationwide.
Earlier this month, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law that would allow armed school faculty starting July 1.
At the federal level, the School Guardian Act introduced Tuesday by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., would fund law enforcement officers at every K-12 school in the country, including private schools, through a block grant program. Scott's proposal mirrors a Florida law he signed in 2018 during his term as Florida's governor, when the Parkland mass shooting took place.
According to a 2022 poll released by Phi Delta Kappan International, 45% of the general public and 43% of public school parents somewhat or strongly support arming teachers.
However, recent events have increased scrutiny on the practice of non-law enforcement officers carrying weapons in schools.
In Texas — where lawmakers just advanced the bill incentivizing teachers to carry firearms — Rising Star Independent School District Superintendent Robby Stuteville resigned in February after a 3rd grade student found the superintendent's gun in a school bathroom.
According to the Giffords Law Center, which advocates to prevent gun violence, there have been nearly 100 reported incidents of mishandled guns on school property over the past five years, including incidents of guns left accessible to children and guns discharged unintentionally.
Laws proposing to arm teachers and others on school campuses also come as 2023 is expected to be another historic record in school shootings. Last year broke the record — at 303 school shootings — for the most school shootings recorded since the K-12 School Shooting Database began tracking the issue.