Lawmaker's proposal would turn teachers into officers

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on December 19, 2012 at 9:03 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 19 at 9:59 AM

DALLAS -- Add a gun to a school to protect that school from gun violence.

It's extreme, admits State Representative-elect Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), but he believes it's what Texas needs.

"This isn't about placing guns in schools; this is about expanding law enforcement," Villalba said. "Expanding the school resource officer program so faculty like teachers, principals, or administrators can have the same kind of deputized rights to utilize deadly force in an emergency situation only."

He will file legislation this week giving school districts the authority to create what he calls "school marshals." He likens the concept to federal air marshals.

"This is a last line of defense — a break glad in case of emergency situation," he said. "This is not a school monitor, not someone breaking up fights. This is a covert officer who has been trained by law enforcement to be able to be a first responder in the most egregious situation that we can possibly imagine."

"People have mischaracterized what we're talking about," Villalba added. "It's not a 'guns in school' bill. It's an expansion of 'law enforcement to protect our kids' bill."

He calls it the Protection of Texas Children Act. Whoever is chosen as a "school marshal" would undergo intensive training, and would be authorized to carry a gun on campus. That person would be able to utilize lethal force in the case of an armed attack.

These school marshals would be undercover. No student, parent, or fellow teacher would know they were carrying a gun. They'd provide their own weapon, and under terms of the proposal, there could be one marshal per 400 students.

The American Federation of Teachers is opposed to Villalba's scheme.

"I think it opens up much more risk for students and educators that are on that campus," said Rena Honea, President of Alliance/AFT. "We're talking about a place that is meant to be for education. A teacher's job — first and foremost — is to educate the students they see every day — not to be the last line of defense for someone that's got a gun."

"I think a much more commonsense approach to the problem is to adequately fund human and health services, where mental issues can be treated in an appropriate way," Honea added.

Villalba stressed the marshal program he envisions would not be mandatory. It would be an option for school districts, should they so choose.

"I acknowledge this is not the most desirable of solutions," he conceded, "but the question I asked parents is: 'If your child was in that situation that these children were in, in Connecticut, would you want legislation like this in place?' And overall, they said, 'Yes, we do. We want a last line of defense to protect our kids.'"

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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