A new school marshal program is slated to be integrated into San Marcos CISD following a 6-1 vote April 17 from the school board, despite pleas from the community to vote against it. Trustee Mari Salmi was the single dissenting vote, and Superintendent Michael Cardona was absent.

“Me and my fellow students are growing up in a world where everyday when you go to school you aren’t scared because of some math test but because you could get hurt by guns. These guns could kill me, and that makes me scared,” Miller Middle School student Sam Salmi said. “More guns in our school is not the answer. As a student, we don’t want more guns in our school. Please, listen to the youth, and vote against the school marshal program."

San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge and Doug Wozniak, the district’s director of transportation and public safety, gave a presentation detailing what having a school marshal program would look like for the district.

What is a school marshal?

House Bill 1009, passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013, allows public school districts and open enrollment charter schools to appoint school marshals to “prevent the act of murder or serious bodily injury on school premises.”

A school marshal's identity is confidential, and they carry a concealed handgun.

According to Standridge, there are 299 school marshals across 74 school districts in Texas.

To be certified by Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, applicants must:
  • Pass a psychological exam and a written state exam
  • Complete TCOLE’s training program
  • Have a current handgun license
What does a school marshal program look like for SMCISD?

SMCISD’s proposed marshal program advocates for using individuals whose sole responsibility would be to protect elementary campuses, such as retired law enforcement or military members, as opposed to arming teachers. According to board documents, the district's proposed program would mirror that of the Wylie ISD's model, consisting of one marshal on each elementary campus who would act as a safety officer. It would include consistent, regular training as well as a stipend.

Other proposed considerations include:
  • Comprehensive vetting
  • Background checks in partnership with San Marcos Police Department
  • Training agreement with
    • SMPD
    • Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training
    • Diaz Martial Arts
Standridge emphasized the marshal program would not equip teachers with firearms.

“Now I heard a lot of testimony tonight, this evening, that we’re going to arm teachers. If that talking point leaves this room, then you’re not listening, or you intentionally want to sabotage this message. The goal is not to arm teachers; the goal is to arm select, full-time employees, who have undergone the psychological, who have undergone the additional training, who have undergone the monthly training, who I, and [Wozniak] and the school board help select,” Standridge said.

School marshal duties:
  • Assist in planning, tracking and executing drills
  • Assist in nursing with Stop The Bleed training
  • Audits, reviews on security
  • Checking exterior doors weekly
“They will check exterior doors on a weekly basis and complete work orders as necessary. How important was the work order at Robb Elementary [in Uvalde]? How many malfunctioning doors do you already have on all of your campuses? Do we even know? Is this being done on a weekly basis?” Standridge said. “If there’s no one accountable then there is no responsibility.”

Mari Salmi asked if the board could change the program in the future without notifying the public.

Although school marshal programs have no public hearing requirement, the district’s legal counsel advised against disengaging the public and recommended inviting the community to give input.

Trustee Brian Shanks was in favor of implementing the program.

“Some of those other alternatives, I think, are even worse, turning our schools into what could, in theory, be considered a minimum security prison,” Shanks said, referring to putting fencing around school yards, and concertina wire and metal detectors at entrances. “I actually prefer the school marshal program to making this a minimum security prison. I think that’s a worse experience for our kids.”

How much is this projected to cost the district?

The projected cost for eight marshals—one at each elementary school in the district—in total, is as follows:
  • Year 1: $515,280
  • Year 2: $518,896
  • Year 3: $525,351
Approval of the program is the first step, and it is unclear when it will be fully implemented into the district.