Leander ISD took its first step toward complying with a new state law requiring school districts to have an armed security guard on every campus.

Two-minute impact

The board of trustees voted to claim a good cause exception and move forward with an alternative standard to comply with the new law at a Sept. 7 meeting. House Bill 3 required school districts to have at least one armed security guard on every campus by Sept. 1, giving districts $10 per student and $15,000 per campus to do so.

The district has claimed an exception due to a lack of personnel and funding, as LISD had eight school resource officers across seven of its 48 campuses at the beginning of the school year, LISD Chief Communications Officer Crestina Hardie said.

The board’s action has allowed the district to begin forming its own police department and hiring school marshals as an alternative standard to meet the law’s requirements, said Bryan Miller, LISD executive director of student support.

“This is the first step to allow us to move forward with all of the other things,” Miller said. This just allows us to say, 'OK, yes. Now we can go and start to plan.'"

The details

As an alternative standard to HB 3, district officials recommended creating the LISD Police Department with 35 school resource officers across its middle and high school campuses and hiring 32 school marshals for elementary and alternative school campuses at an Aug. 24 meeting.

School marshals would be hired as district employees whose sole job is security and safety. They would undergo 80 hours of state training, hold a license to carry and make arrests only to prevent serious bodily injury, Miller said.

He said the district police department would have fully commissioned peace officers with additional arrest and investigation powers needed at middle and high schools. With in-house police, the district wouldn't have to rely on local police departments, which are experiencing staffing shortages, he said.

While creating the police department could take anywhere from nine to 18 months, Miller said the district could begin hiring school marshals in the meantime.

The proposed system would take $7.6 million to implement with some costs offset by $1.1 million in funding from the state and $1.2 million already allocated for the district’s existing officer partnerships.

What’s next?

Further actions regarding the specifics of the district police department and school marshal program will be brought to the board for review and approval, Miller said.

"We will bring you all of the things as we move along the process," he said.