Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify Trustee Gopal Ponangi was present during the vote on the resolution, and clarify the mandates of House Bill 3.

Frisco ISD officials have claimed an exemption to newly passed state legislation regarding security officers due to a lack of available qualified officers.

FISD board of trustees approved a good cause exception to the law Aug. 14 in a 6-1 vote. Trustee Stephanie Elad voted against the resolution.

Under the new law, FISD would need an additional 44 security officers to comply with House Bill 3, according to a presentation given by FISD Executive Director of Operations James Hill. If the school board did not claim an exception, Hill said the district would not be in compliance with the law.

“In an ideal world, we’d be able to have a [school resource officer] at every single one of our campuses,” Hill said. “There’s not enough police officers to be able to do that in our school district. That’s not an option for us.”

What’s in the bill?

House Bill 3 was created by Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, and mandates all schools within a district must have an armed security officer present during regular school hours starting Sept. 1.

Per the bill, a school security officer could be a:
  • School district law enforcement officer
  • School resource officer, or SRO
  • Law enforcement officer commissioned to work for the district
The law allows districts to claim a good cause exception from the requirement if a district lacks funding or availability of qualified personnel.

“There’s a severe lack of qualified personnel,” Hill said. “We don’t want to haphazardly run out and hire anyone to carry guns in our elementary schools with our children.”

Some context

Hill mentioned current security measures FISD has on its campuses.
  • Security vestibules stop visitors before the school’s office areas. Every FISD campus has a secure front entrance.
  • Exterior doors remain closed, locked and latched at all times, per state law. Even though it’s not required by law, FISD directs all interior doors are locked for a layered security approach. The district also requires daily exterior door sweeps.
  • SROs are placed at all secondary campuses within the district. FISD also has rover positions that rotate throughout FISD’s elementary campuses.
  • Annual safety and security audits are conducted by a third-party auditor and Frisco Police Department.
  • Over 4,600 security cameras are installed throughout the district.
What were the options?

Hill presented four options district officials weighed to meet the requirements to the school board.
  • The first option for trustees was to claim the good cause exception and continue the district’s current practice. All secondary schools have a full-time SRO, while middle school SROs assist in covering elementary rovers. Under this practice, the district only uses commissioned peace officers.
  • The second option would be to contract with an outside private security company to provide armed security. The outside company would find, hire and train the 44 security officers needed, as well as three supervisors for the program. This option has a potential budget impact of $2 million-$4 million. The security personnel would not be employees of the district.
  • A third option for the district would be to hire its own security officers or marshals for each elementary school. FISD would oversee the program, and the officers would be district employees. At least 44 marshals, four supervisors and additional substitutes would need to be hired at an estimated cost of $50,000 to $70,000 per employee plus benefits. Additional costs to the district include training, outfitting, arming and insurance.
  • Option four would be arming existing personnel on each campus, such as administrators or teachers. A school guardian is an option for an alternative standard, or excpetion, under the law if a district cannot meet the requirements of HB 3. Passed in the 2013 Texas legislative session, the Guardian Plan gives a school board further discretion in authorizing designated persons to carry a firearm on district campuses. The district must outfit and arm each employee.
While the fourth option is the most cost effective program, a challenge for the district is finding employees willing and able to handle a firearm on district campuses.

“How many educators come into the business wanting to carry a gun and to be a security officer while they’re trying to teach?” Hill said. “That’s the challenge with all of this.”

Action taken

The board approved an amendment to the resolution to have the superintendent continuously evaluate the safety and security structures of the district. Per the amendment, monthly updates must be given to the board regarding safety and security.