A group of parents, officers from the Fort Worth Police Department and City Council member Michael Crain, collectively embarked on a mission to ensure the safety of school-going children. These concerned citizens spent an entire day at the Capitol in Austin to advocate for armed security officers to be present at every school in Texas.
The parents, who spearheaded the nonprofit organization, Texans Against School Violence, aimed to address school safety issues, and with their unwavering efforts, established a pilot program that enlisted off-duty Fort Worth police officers at Tanglewood Elementary School. This program was made possible through funding received from parent donations.
Currently, middle and high schools in Fort Worth ISD have school resource officers, but elementary schools do not have the same privilege. The group, therefore, travelled to the Capitol to campaign for House Bill 3, a significant piece of school safety legislation that is currently pending in committee, which would mandate every public school to have at least one armed security officer.
“We want to advocate for additional funds and demonstrate to the lawmakers that we have a well-thought-out plan to accomplish this,” stated Keeton Monahan, a board member of the nonprofit.
During their visit, the group met with several lawmakers, including Reps. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, and Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston, and other coauthors of the bill, including Reps. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, Cody Harris, R-Palestine, Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood. The group also had the chance to meet with Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, who represents the district Tanglewood is in.
The board members, all parents, disclosed that the lawmakers were keenly interested in learning more about their pilot program, including the training that officers receive to prepare them for working with children, and the use of community police officers during off-duty hours, rather than having one full-time school resource officer.
“It sounds like there’s enough support, and there’s a good chance that House Bill 3 will go through,” noted Charity Aughinbaugh, the organization’s treasurer. “However, our biggest question is: Is there enough funding?”
The proposed legislation provides roughly $10 per student to fund an armed officer. However, the group argues that this would not be sufficient to achieve the objectives outlined in the bill.
Legislative staff reviewed the proposal’s cost and realized that it would require a more significant budget than the allocated amount. As such, they are meticulously assessing all the details before making a decision.
The bill is still pending approval from both the House and the Senate, but House Speaker Dade Phelan has stated that it is one of his priorities for this session.
Amber Spurgeon, the president, and founder of the nonprofit expressed her confidence in the group’s mission and stated, “We saw so many positive things that came out of our pilot program. We want to use our model and implement it in every school district, in every police department, and in every city.”