Just over three months after Pflugerville ISD chose to file a good cause exemption to new safety requirements under House Bill 3, the district's police department has shared what their version of staffing each of its campuses with the equivalent of a school resource officer could look like.

What's happening?

During a Dec. 19 meeting, PfISD Police Chief Patrick Petherbridge shared five potential options to staff each of its campuses with an armed security officer or a suitable alternative. When the district's board of trustees approved the exemption from HB 3, Petherbridge said the district could neither afford to expand its police department to staff an officer on each of its campuses, nor would it be able to hire that many officers in such a short amount of time, as local agencies across school districts, cities and counties are encountering a staffing shortage.

What are the options?

Petherbridge shared five different methods of staffing armed officers at each of the district's 22 elementary schools to satisfy requirements of HB 3:
  • Staffing the district's police department: Petherbridge said the district would need to hire 22 more officers and two sergeants to have one officer at each of its campuses. He said the cost of this option is $1.37 million in salaries before benefits, vehicles or equipment.
  • Contract school resource officers through other law enforcement entities: The district could contract with the Pflugerville Police Department or other local entities, but Petherbridge said these departments are also experiencing staffing difficulties. The cost to the district for this option is $1.3 million to cover campuses for the remainder of the 2023-24 school year.
  • School marshals: District employees could volunteer to undergo training and certification to become a school marshal. Petherbridge said school marshals must be trained through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and class availability is limited. He said this option would cost the district $325 for psychological services; $300 for training supplies such as ammunition; and hotel costs, substitute fees and overtime per trainee.
  • School guardians: Similar in scope to school marshals, school guardians are district employees who are trained in-house with local instructors, Petherbridge said. This option would cost the district $875 for training, psychological services, training supplies, substitute fees and overtime per staff member.
  • School safety specialists: Petherbridge said this type of position could be filled by former law enforcement and military veterans. Such specialists would be focused on the safety and security of PfISD campuses. He also said this could be a more affordable option, as the district would have the option only to employ them for the 187-day school year. He said the district would pay $1.21 million for salaries, training and equipment.
He said his department is both asking for some additional officers and recommending that the district choose the school guardian option, although an official method was not selected by trustees.

What they're saying

Several community members asked the board to consider whether a school guardian program is truly the best option for the district, expressing concern about having armed teachers on campus.

In discussing the matter, trustees suggested a survey or another form of engaging with the community about the options available to find the best path forward.

Place 7 trustee Chevonne Jhost likened the option to the board's decision earlier that evening to disallow chaplains serving as counselors. She expressed concern about the level of training required for some of the options presented that would see current district employees defending their campuses.

"We really need to talk about what our values and goals are, and security and safety of our students and the police need to be part of that discussion because $2.7 million—I would vote on that today, if we had the pool of people and the cash on hand to be able to make that happen," Jhost said. "My children sit every day in these classrooms with these teachers. I love our teachers and our staff. I can't imagine what it would do to any of these folks if a kid accidentally got the gun."