In the Lone Star State, the issue of gun violence in schools has been an ongoing concern for more than a decade. The state has been allowing teachers and staff to carry firearms on campus, particularly in rural areas where police resources are limited, according to Dallas Metro News.
However, in the wake of a tragic school shooting in Uvalde, where 19 students and two teachers lost their lives, state lawmakers have proposed a new bill to incentivize educators to undertake this responsibility.
Under the proposed legislation, Texas schools would provide teachers and other staff members who choose to carry firearms on campus with a stipend of up to $25,000. To qualify, they would have to undergo rigorous firearms and mental health training, as well as first aid courses. Moreover, they would be trained to recognize early signs of mental health problems.
One of the smaller communities in the state, Pilot Point ISD, has already implemented a similar program, known as the Defender Program, after thorough consideration. Police Chief Brad Merritt explains that they opted for this program due to its comprehensive training, which includes psychological and classroom training, and a thorough interview process.
Although the bill has several advantages, Rena Honea, President of the Alliance AFT, the teachers’ union of Dallas ISD, has reservations about its implications. While the monetary incentive might be appealing to some, Honea believes that some individuals may feel pressured to accept the offer, potentially neglecting safety concerns. Additionally, providing incentives could attract individuals who are unsuitable for the program but are solely driven by monetary gain.
Merritt agrees with the concerns raised by the Alliance AFT, emphasizing that selection should be based solely on merit, with incentives used to encourage those who have been selected.
With bipartisan support, the bill has already passed the State House and is now set to move forward to the State Senate. If the proposal becomes law, it is likely that more schools in Texas will adopt similar initiatives to enhance the protection of their students against potential harm.