(Orange, Texas)

April 17, 2013

Texas Senate approves teacher weapons training

Associated Press
The Orange Leader

AUSTIN, Texas —

 Texas schools could send up to two teachers to get special tactical response and weapons training to help guard against school shooters under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has been pushing for special training for school personnel since the December 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Although schools are generally a no-guns zone, Texas law allows districts to let teachers who have concealed handgun licenses to bring their weapons to campus. Currently, only three school districts are known to do that.

"The landscape of school safety has sadly changed," said Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the sponsor of the bill.

Patrick said school districts could have two teachers per school apply for the training. The state set aside up to $1 million per year for the training.

Superintendents at three small rural school districts that allow some teachers to carry guns have told lawmakers that the practice provides a critical measure of safety for students in the event of a campus shooting.

But a law enforcement expert warned lawmakers that the policy could put those teachers at "high risk" of being mistakenly shot by responding officers.

Patrick has suggested the teachers would likely be in a defensive position and not roaming the halls with a gun drawn to be mistakenly targeted by police.

Testimony in a previous hearing showed a division between small, rural districts and larger urban ones on letting more guns in classrooms. Representatives from Dallas and Austin schools, which have their own police departments, said school safety should be left to school, city and county law enforcement.

Patrick's bill would apply only to school districts that don't have their own law enforcement.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.