African-American students in Texas are apprehensive about a law that policymakers are considering — to expand the state’s school marshal program in response to the Santa Fe school shooting last year.
The marshal program, created in 2013, trains school personnel to act as armed security officers in the absence of law enforcement. Senate Bill 406 is currently moving through the Texas Legislature. If approved, it would allow individual school districts to decide how school marshals must store or carry their concealed handguns.
The bill was approved by the Texas Senate with a 28 to 3 vote in early April. State Sens. José Menéndez of San Antonio, José Rodríguez of El Paso and Kirk Watson of Austin, all Democrats, voted in opposition.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent school safety plan recommended removing the firearm storage requirement for school marshals who are in direct contact with students.
Senior high school student Ahmir Johnson knows what can happen when people who look like him come into contact with law enforcement.
“We already get profiled based on the clothes we wear, how we look, our hair, what color our eyes are — and the main thing is the color of our skin,” Johnson told The Texas Tribune. “[Lawmakers] can’t cover up how these programs might have an unintentional impact on students of color.”
To intensify his fear, Johnson recalls a story from his own school where a Black student was grabbed by the throat by a school resource officer after being called to break up a fight. He could only imagine what will happen when they are allowed to carry guns. What really concerns him is the fact that marshals have full immunity in court for any reasonable action taken to maintain safety.
Supporters for this program feel it will help the school defend itself against an active shooter while gun control activists feel it just puts more guns around our children.
High school student Addison Savors stated, “I would be a little bit more cautious and keep my eyes open if I knew my teacher had a weapon on them. In fact, I would be more focused on that than actually learning.”
Lawmakers from other states who have implemented the marshal program have mentioned that students of color feel unsafe when their teachers have guns.
As State Senator Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso who voted against the bills expanding this program told the Tribune, “People bring their biases and life experiences to the work setting — in this case, that would be the schools — and sometimes those biases unfairly harm kids of color.”