As the school year starts, Texas' House Bill 3 security requirements are proving to be a difficult task for school districts of all sizes to comply with. Not only is funding a barrier, but also the shortage of police officers across the state is making this a difficult feat. Currently, there are over 9000 campuses across the state of Texas.
House Bill 3 Background
Under House Bill 3, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law this past June, all Texas schools are now required to have at least one armed security officer on-site during regular school hours, starting Sept. 1, 2023. Since being signed, school districts across the state have been grappling with how to fulfill this new requirement, primarily due to the shortage of personnel and lack of funding. Hiring new police officers as employees for a school district is an expensive and time-consuming investment. Between recruitment, selection, payroll, liability, health insurance, uniforms, benefits, training, etc., the cost adds up quickly per officer. Another consideration is how long it typically takes to hire a new officer. Although varying for each department, a typical average time to go through recruitment, testing and successful selection is around 3-4 months. From there, the officer will spend 5-6 months at the next available police academy and will then also have to go through the department training. In all, it would be safe to estimate about a year time turnaround time from the time authorization is approved to hire, until an officer is ready to be deployed. That also hinges on the ability to offer attractive compensation and other benefits to garner qualified applicants to apply. One last item not to forget is that you ensure full coverage very day, you will have to plan to over hire additional officers during times officers are out due to mandated trainings, sick, testifying in court, and other absences.
The Specifics of House Bill 3
Under the new law, there are three options for what counts as armed security:
- School district peace officer: a district employee licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and commissioned by the district
- School resource officer: a commissioned peace officer with the same training as a peace officer who is employed by a local municipality and assigned to a specific district through a contract between the municipality and the district
- Commissioned peace officer employed as security personnel: an off-duty commissioned peace officer contracted directly with the district or through a security services contractor licensed under Texas Occupations Code Chapter 1702
If a school district is unable to comply with the requirements because of a lack of funding or lack of available personnel who qualify to serve as an armed security guard, its board of trustees may claim a good-cause exemption. In such a case, the district could commission school marshals; school guardians, such as teachers or custodians; or commissioned “level three security officers,” which are trained and licensed to carry a gun, instead.
First Responder Protective Services provides several solutions for school districts to comply with House Bill 3 requirements. We have successfully provided off-duty police officers to school campuses across the State of Texas for years. Owned and operated by active and retired police chiefs from municipalities and school districts alike, First Responder Protective Services utilizes seasoned and trained police officers with the correct temperament and skills required to fulfill the armed security roles for campuses K-12.
First Responder Protective Services also provides a unique, highly qualified force of Level 3 Security Officers, consisting of part-time & retired, highly experienced law enforcement officers as well as retired well trained retired veterans. If your district is thinking about using Level 3 security officers to fulfill the House Bill 3 requirement, I would caution you to vet the training and experience of the Level 3 officers a security contractor is staffing your schools with. All level 3 security officers are not the same, and with your children’s safety at risk, I would make sure you aren’t leaving it up to someone with minimal training and experience simply because they meet the minimum requirements to carry a firearm in the school. The training requirement to obtain a level 3 security license in Texas is to successfully pass a 45-hour course and a basic firearms qualification test. Because we utilize prior law enforcement for our Level 3 school contracts, our bids for these contracts may not be the lowest, but pale in comparison to some other bids considering the qualifications and experience of the personnel we provide.
Regardless of whether you choose to utilize off-duty police officers or specialized Level 3 security officers through First Responder Protective Services to safeguard your schools, you will get all the benefits with either. You will receive a dedicated account manager with years of law enforcement experience; $5,000,000 in general liability coverages, and our officers are covered by a $1,000,000 workers compensation policy. In addition, you only have to handle about one invoice and we take care of the rest! We handle paying the officers, scheduling and coordinating them, 1099 W2 and all tax reporting, ensure they all stay compliant in certifications required, and oversee and guide with any issues as they arise.
Contact us today to find out how First Responder Protective Services can help you comply with House Bill 3. Our team is always ready to answer any questions you may have. Let us provide you with peace of mind and protection for your children and help keep your schools safe.