Committee considers how Texas veterans could help with school safety

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AUSTIN — Some school district police officers told lawmakers during a joint committee hearing to consider prioritizing retired peace officers and veterans for school security.

“If you’re looking at hiring veterans, people that have specialized training in law enforcement as I did, there should be a consideration, maybe some modifications, maybe reduce the amount of training,” Chris Evoy with the Austin ISD Police Department said.

Prioritizing hiring retired peace officers, specifically police, sheriffs and constables as well as military veterans was part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s extensive school safety plan, released after the shooting at Santa Fe High School.  

“Texas retired and off-duty peace officers already have extensive firearms and emergency response training and many would be willing and able to protect Texas campuses,” the plan states. “Texas should authorize schools to prioritize recruitment and hiring of such personnel to protect their campuses and their student bodies, faculty, employees and guests.”

Abbott’s plan also recommends the state create a system for veterans to participate in a modified school marshal program that ensures appropriate training to switch into a school campus setting.

Granger ISD Superintendent Randy Willis says this idea could grow the candidate pool of school officers for his rural school district. Funding and location have always been major challenges when trying to grow his school security team.

“A veteran that has police training, things like that, that should be more than adequate to be in a quality pool for us to choose from,” he said.

Some veterans stressed that specific police training for a school setting should be part of the modified training if lawmakers take this approach, since skills needed for combat can be different than what’s needed when working with kids.

“Handling a weapon in a school situation with a bunch of kids around is a lot different than in a combat situation or a straight policing situation,” veteran John Zeitz said.

Superintendent Willis also hopes if lawmakers decide to move forward with this recommendation, they also add funding.

“When you look at so many schools out there, we’re already stressed with our dollars,” he said.

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