Collin College is the first community college district in the state to implement a program to train educators with concealed handgun licenses to respond to active shooter situations.
Collin College will now seek approval from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to conduct training at the new public safety training center in McKinney, which opened in August.
The Collin College board of trustees approved the implementation of the school marshal program Dec. 11.
The school marshal program was passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013 for public school districts. The program was later expanded in 2015 to include public two-year colleges.
Since August 2017 state law has permitted licensed holders to carry a concealed handgun on college and university campuses.
The policy would provide specialized training for full-time employees who already are licensed holders and who wish to be part of the school marshal program.
Those eligible for the program would need to pass a licensing state exam, undergo a psychological examination and background checks and complete a prerequisite commission training, said Kenneth Lynn, Collin College’s chief financial officer and vice president of administrative services.
Authorizing the program would add another layer of security by having designated school marshals at each of the college facilities, Lynn said. If an active shooter situation were to occur, there would already be trained personnel at the college ready to respond while police officers make their way to the location, she said.
Lynn said insurance liability for each school marshal could cost anywhere between $4,000-$5,000.
Every decision will need board approval as with appointments, budgets and insurance plans.
School marshals will be authorized to act only “to prevent or abate the commission of an offense that threatens serious bodily injury or death of students, faculty, staff or visitors on school premises,” according to the policy adopted by the board of trustees.
Trustees were split in the decision, approving the program by a 5-4 vote with some board members, including Stacey Donald, stating they needed more time to decide or did not believe more guns were the answer.
“In interest of our students, faculty, staff and community I cannot in good conscience vote into place a measure that more deeply embeds guns and gun violence into our everyday lives,” Donald said.
Donald also said there has not been a great effort to be transparent about the issue to the community or to solicit more community feedback.
Nine people spoke against the school marshal program during the meeting, some of whom were students, teachers, veterans and parents. Several spoke about how the program would open up the college to liability and put students and staff at increased risk.
Board member Mac Hendricks was in favor of the program and said there was still a step-by-step process before implementing the program.
“What [this program]will do is train someone to take action during that little window of opportunity to save a lot of lives,” he said.
Hendricks said it could take up to nine months to a year for the program to be implemented.
“We’ll go through the process, and we’ll take whatever time is necessary to develop the program effectively and appropriately,” Lynn said. “Also keep in mind that it takes a lot of time to do these background checks on the school marshals, so it could take a couple of weeks to just do one person. So if we have 10, 15 or 20 signed up, that’s a lot of manpower to vet these candidates.”
The board’s Organization, Education and Policy Committee reviewed, discussed and revised the proposed policy at three separate meetings during the fall before presenting its recommendation to the board in December.
In November the college surveyed students, faculty and staff regarding the school marshal program. A total of 565 responses were received, 213 of which were students. There are about 55,625 students at Collin College.
When asked how they felt about having trained and certified armed employees available to assist college police in the event of a life-threatening situation on campus, 86 percent of students and 69 percent of faculty expressed their support. However, 63 percent of all respondents said they were not familiar with the school marshal program.
“We understand the concerns expressed by many of our constituents and appreciate the feedback we have received,” board chairman Bob Collins said in a statement. “Together with the college administration, the board of trustees have thoroughly studied this issue.”
Collin College District President Neil Matkin said he plans to have ongoing conversations with public school districts that have implemented the program. There are 170 school districts that have authorized the program.
“We are all working for the safety of our students and look forward to sharing the details of the program with our education partners,” he said.