School districts in Texas without the resources to have law enforcement officers on their campuses are poised to get the ability to designate school employees to carry concealed weapons and serve as school marshals.

In a 28-3 vote, the Senate on Wednesday voted to pass House Bill 1009, also known as the Protection of Texas Children Act. The measure, authored by state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is now headed to the governor’s desk.

HB 1009 creates a school marshal program, whose participants would only be authorized to respond to an active shooter or other emergency situations that threaten the lives of public school students on campus; they could only act before police arrived.

Villalba said his legislation is modeled after the federal air marshal program. Like those officials, a school marshal’s identity would known only to certain school officials, local law enforcement as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety. 

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“This legislation provides school districts with a cost-effective school security option that includes robust training tailored to protect children in schools during an active shooter situation,” Villalba said.

Districts that choose to enter the program would select a volunteer — a teacher, a coach, an administrator or other campus official — to undergo 80 hours of training to become a licensed officer. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, or TCLEOSE, would develop the training that would include a mental health evaluation and firearms proficiency requirements that exceed concealed handgun license standards.

Villalba said last December’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school led him to file the bill.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, wanted assurance from state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills — one of the bill’s sponsors — that HB 1009 would not become a vehicle for other gun bills.

“You have my word, there's no intent, no desire,” Hancock said. “We can rest assured that if a bill is tacked on, the bill is dead.”

The measure passed with no amendments.

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