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Dallas ISD short officers to meet new law requirements | #schoolsaftey

DALLAS — Dallas Independent School District is working to be in compliance with a new school safety law that was written and passed in response to the Uvalde massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in that shooting.

The announcement of the district’s plan comes before a new state law, House Bill 3, goes into effect on Sept. 1. It requires armed personnel on every campus. But when students arrive to their respective DISD campus for the first day of school, some will see an armed guard, and others will not.

With 230 DISD campuses to cover, the district is currently short-handed. Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said Thursday the district is working to hire more security.

“For Dallas ISD, what does it actually mean?” Elizalde said. “It actually means we would be looking for 167 additional officers.”

Dallas ISD has its own police force. Elizalde said security is currently at all secondary schools and some multi-level schools. It is still not enough to be in compliance with the new law.

Elizalde shared she is asking the school board to approve an alternate plan when the trustees meet later this month.

The law states an alternate plan can be made and approved if staffing or finances prevent a district from being in compliance with the armed officer requirement of the law.

The proposal involves increasing patrols around elementary schools, so there is a less than a 5-minute response time to each campus. It also includes upping recruitment efforts for Dallas ISD’s own police force and hiring commissioned security officers. The commissioned officers would be trained to respond to emergencies, but would not have the power to arrest someone.

Elizalde noted other nearby school districts, and even the Dallas Police Department, are struggling to find officers.

“Truly the biggest issue is the availability of workforce,” Elizalde said.

While Elizalde said the school board will never “have dollars be an impediment to safety,” she said it may be a challenge to continuously fund the armed security requirement of the law.

“Where would we find the money for this? You know, worst case scenario is we would go into fund balance,” Elizalde said. “We do have a healthy fund balance. The biggest challenge with that is that these are recurring costs because these are employees. So that means next year we have to make sure they’re taken care of – each and every year.”

Despite instituting new safety requirements for schools, the Texas Legislature allocated just $10 per student for security measures. That’s a 28-cent increase over last year. Lawmakers did also set aside a $15,000 grant to provide each campus, but that is only a fraction of the salary of an armed guard.

Elizalde said the district would start armed guards at $40,000 and would vary from there, depending on experience.

School leaders can alternatively meet the state requirement by allowing certain staff members, including teachers, to carry guns on campus under Texas’ “guardian plan” or “marshal program.”

Elizalde is adamant that neither is an option on the table for Dallas ISD.

“There are so many things that can go wrong with a marshal or guardian plan,” Elizalde said. “I don’t need a third-grade teacher worrying about teaching students and then also needing to be the person responding in the event of an emergency.”

She said she understands why smaller school districts may have to resort to this option.

The first day of school for DISD is Monday, Aug. 14.

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