Dripping Springs ISD is opting into Texas’ school marshal program, in which an employee hired by the district will serve as an armed responder to a potential intruder.
During a meeting of the board of trustees on Aug. 28, the board unanimously approved to include school marshals as part of a safety program.
Following the passage of House Bill 3 from the 88th legislative session, which requires armed security on all campuses, DSISD trustees voted to nearly double the amount of school resource officers, or SROs, in the district on May 22. This would have added three SROs to the four already in the district through an agreement with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.
Instead, the county was unable to provide the additional officers due to challenges with staffing. Opting into the school marshal program allows the district to be in line with state law effective Sept. 1, said DSISD Director of Safety Sirenna Cumberland.
The budget, passed May 22, included a total of seven SRO’s on campuses under the district’s compensation plan. The plan was amended Aug. 28 to include the school marshal position.
School marshals were introduced to Texas districts in 2013 in order to respond to emergency situations on campuses, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, or TCOLE.
School marshals are appointed by the board of trustees, are a current employee of the district, have concealed handgun licenses and undergo at least 80 hours of training to be considered as eligible by TCOLE.
“We have lots of retired law enforcement and we are hopeful that maybe there would be someone like that who would be interested in filling those positions,” said Cumberland.
A school marshal on a DSISD campus will:
The identity of the school marshal is not to be revealed on the record by DSISD or TCOLE. No teachers in the district will be armed as a result of this program, said Cumberland.
What they’re saying
During public comment on Aug. 28, only three community members spoke in regards to the item, and expressed the desire for the district to handle the hiring of any school marshal with student’s safety in mind and to replace the marshals with SROs as soon as available.
“Our community wants assurance that these school marshals will have highly trained qualifications beyond the minimums outlined by the state,” DSISD parent Monica Newton said.
The district would not immediately let go of a school marshal if an SRO can fill that position, said Cumberland.
“Our goal is to place an SRO at every campus,” Cumberland said. “We are going to continue to be patient with the sheriff’s office. That’s our goal.”
Board members expressed concerns with safety in schools in the district before voting to pass the program.
“Our mental health epidemic in our country has resulted in a place where we have to sit here and talk about who's going to have a gun in elementary school, protecting the kids. So let's just acknowledge that nobody is pleased that this is where we are,” said board member Rob McClelland. “We got to do everything we can at the local government level, which is where our responsibility is, to make sure we have the safest and most secure schools anywhere.”
Also of note
Other Hays County school districts that have opted into the school marshal program include San Marcos CISD, which was implemented in April of 2023 despite community dissent, as previously reported by Community Impact.
The process to hire a school marshal will take about two months, said Cumberland.
The DSISD board of trustees will meet again on Sept. 25, and community members can sign up for public comment prior to the meeting.
For more information on the district, visit www.dsisdtx.us.
Elle joined Community Impact as a reporter in November 2022 and covers Austin ISD, Eanes ISD and all things Dripping Springs. Elle graduated from St. Edward's University with a degree in communication and minors in journalism and Spanish. As a student, she served as editor-in-chief at Hilltop Views. Prior to CI, she interned at Austin Woman. Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @byellebent.
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