Students at Dallas ISD started school on Monday, and many arrived at campuses that did not have any armed security.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, an upcoming state law will soon require an armed security officer to be stationed at every public school in the state. State lawmakers moved to put in place the requirement following the deadly school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last May.
“With what’s happened all over the country, you want your kids to be secure, there is some apprehension going into the school year. Like is this year going to be my student’s year where they have something bad happen?” said district parent Kelly Preisz, speaking with NBC 5 DFW News.
“The fact that they’re not going to have armed guards at every single school, it’s a little unsettling but at the same time it’s just kind of been the status quo up until recently. So you still have the same fear you don’t feel any safer,” Preisz added.
School safety has been an issue in Dallas ISD, which saw two gun-related incidents unfold during the 2022-2023 school year. As previously reported by The Dallas Express, a Dallas ISD student was shot in the campus parking lot between Thomas Jefferson High School and Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy in March. Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde blamed the event on the prevalence of violent crime in Dallas.
Earlier in the year, a student managed to bring a gun onto campus at John Carpenter Elementary School. The firearm was discharged, but no injuries were reported.
“When [HB 3] was created … the intent was to have police officers in our schools,” DISD Police Chief John Lawton said at a school board briefing last Thursday, as reported by The Dallas Express.
He explained that if a district cannot comply because of a problem with funding or a lack of personnel, it can apply for a “good cause exception” to the law, which goes into effect on September 1. Lawton noted that both a lack of qualified personnel and funding are challenges in this respect.
“The feasibility of [having a full-time armed security officer at every DISD campus] is not possible,” said Elizalde, according to NBC 5. “So, what they will see is they might see officers that will be coming during certain periods of time at elementary schools.”
“While certainly dollars are important, remember that this board will never have dollars be an impediment to safety,” Elizalde claimed. “So, we would prioritize that. But truly, the biggest issue is the availability of workforce.”
Dallas ISD is reportedly short 167 armed officers, according to Fox 4 KDFW.
At present, 72 DISD campuses have active SROs, but the likelihood that Dallas ISD could contract nearly another hundred is low due to the City of Dallas Police Department’s severe staffing shortage.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, a City analysis suggests DPD should have roughly 4,000 police officers, but the department only employs around 3,100.
Still, the district could take advantage of Texas’ Marshal Program, which allows a district employee with a valid license-to-carry permit to enroll in school marshal training and become a campus’ designated armed guard.
Robyn Harris, executive director of strategic engagement and crisis communications for Dallas ISD, told The Dallas Express that sergeants and lieutenants with the Dallas ISD Police Department would likely be deployed to some of the campuses that do not already have a student resource officer, the vast majority of which are elementary schools.
When asked if Dallas ISD will opt to lean on the Marshal Program, Harris said, “That’s not something we’re going to do.”