July 14, 2014

First armed school marshals trained in Fort Worth

Provided they meet the criteria, school employees from superintendents to teachers can become school marshals.

The first seven school marshals in Texas — armed employees in the classroom, ready to respond to an active shooter situation — are being trained in Fort Worth at Tarrant County College’s Northwest campus.

The new class of law enforcement officer was created by a new state law, the Protection of Texas Children Act, sponsored by state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas. It allows any eligible full-time school employees, from the superintendent to the math teacher, to perform the duties of a school marshal.

The marshals receive training that includes tactical firearms experience, strategy, prevention and response, Rafael Perea, an instructor at the police academy at TCC, said Monday.

The districts and the names of the seven employees enrolled in the 80-hour program were not released.

“These guys are anonymous and it is all confidential,’’ Perea said. “If you want to take the concept of an air marshal inside an airplane, this is a school marshal inside of a school. It is to provide that extra layer of defense for our children.’’

To be eligible, a school employee must hold a concealed handgun permit, pass a psychological exam and adhere to the requirements of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. The employee then must undergo the training session and take ongoing continuing education.

TCC is the first location in the state to provide the training, Perea said.

“Nobody is offering this course yet. We were fortunate to be the first in the state of Texas,” he said.

More training is expected to take place in August, he said. The training costs about $400 per person, he said.

“They are to respond when there is deadly force only,’’ Perea said. “This is not about responding to any kind of disturbance on their job, such as parking issues.”

Villalba said his intent was to enable Texas schools to ward off a situation like the mass shooting that occurred in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

“No one knows when the front door is kicked in and children’s lives are being threatened,”’ Villalba said in a May 2013 press conference to unveil the new law. “These individuals can respond in seconds, instead of minutes.”

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