Senate OKs training for armed teachers


AUSTIN – The Senate approved Wednesday a bill that would pay for training for school employees to carry a concealed handgun on campus. Since the Sandy Hook shooting last year, lawmakers have debated ways to ensure that such a tragedy never happens in Texas. Bill author and Education Committee chairman Senator Dan Patrick said schools need tools to protect students.

"The landscape of school safety has sadly changed," he said.

There is no current law that would prohibit a teacher or other school employee from bringing a concealed gun to school, provided he or she has a valid concealed carry license. In fact, the Harrold school district already has some armed employees, as superintendent David Thweet told a joint committee hearing on the subject of school safety in January. At that hearing, two more superintendents told Senators they too were planning on implementing an armed employee policy on campus.

What SB 17 would do is offer limited funds for schools to pay for two employees to receive additional concealed handgun training. It also directs the Department of Public Safety to develop a safety training program geared specifically for school employees and the protection of students. Designated employees would also be permitted to be armed at extracurricular activities. This bill now heads to the House.

The Senate also approved a measure that would give parents greater power to intervene in a failing school. SB 1263, by Friendswood Senator Larry Taylor, would reduce the timeframe in which parents can petition the state to take action to improve a failing school. If a school is rated "unacceptable" for three years in a row, a majority of parents at that school could petition the Commissioner of Education to repurpose the campus, put the school under alternative management or even close the campus. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst praised the passage of the bill.

"In passing SB 1263, the Texas Senate is empowering parents whose children are trapped in failing schools," he said. "For too long, Texas children have been trapped in failing schools without viable alternatives." This bill also now heads to the House for consideration.

The Senate will reconvene 10 a.m. Thursday, April 18.