Austin ISD Police Officers Divide Time at Campuses Due to Shortage

AUSTIN, Texas – During Tuesday night’s gathering of the Austin ISD School Safety and Security Committee, Jacob Reach, the district’s Chief of Governmental Relations, presented the strategy that AISD intends to adopt for House Bill 3, which will officially become law on September 1.

Under this law, every public elementary, middle, and high school in Texas will be required to have an armed guard present. Reach remarked that the district has had only around three months since the bill’s passage to begin their preparations.

Choosing from the options provided by the law, such as arming teachers, school staff, guardians, or volunteers, the district has decided that each of its 113 campuses will be staffed with an AISD police officer.

Reach explained the reasoning behind this decision, stating, “We firmly believe that Austin ISD police officers, with their comprehensive training, will provide the highest level of security for our students and staff. We aim to alleviate any concerns teachers may have about carrying firearms on campus.”

However, Austin ISD currently only has 82 officers, including 43 school resource officers. To comply with the new law, they must hire an additional 83 officers. Unfortunately, it will be impossible to complete the recruitment process by next Friday. In the interim, the officers will divide their time between different campuses.

Compounding matters, the issue of finances also comes into play. The state is only allocating $15,000 per school for school safety and an additional $10 per student. Nevertheless, AISD estimates that the actual cost of employing each officer will be approximately $80,000.

Addressing this dilemma, Reach expressed hope that the state will take into account the funding requirements of districts. He stressed the importance of providing adequate resources if school safety is considered a priority. Despite the financial challenge, AISD is committed to finding the necessary funds for this year.

During the meeting, several residents voiced their concerns, asserting that an increased police presence on campuses does not necessarily guarantee enhanced safety. Andrew Hairston from Texas Appleseed’s Education Justice Project passionately stated, “We fought vehemently against HB 3.” Now that the bill has become law, Hairston has a message for Austin ISD. He urges them to refrain from exceeding the mandated requirement of one armed security officer per campus and instead allocate discretionary funds to support practices that restore harmony and foster social-emotional learning.

Simultaneously, Austin ISD is actively working towards implementing other elements of HB 3. This includes mental health training, developing threat assessment protocols, formulating emergency response plans, and educating parents on the importance of safe gun storage.

As AISD strives to meet the demands of House Bill 3, the district remains focused on ensuring the safety and well-being of its students and staff through comprehensive planning and allocation of appropriate resources.

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