Dallas ISD 167 armed officers short of new state law requirements, looking at alternatives

Dallas ISD teachers returned to the classroom Thursday morning to prepare for the first day back at school on Monday.

At the same time across town, Dallas ISD's police chief and school superintendent briefed the school board about the district's plan to meet the requirements of newly-passed House Bill 3.

"This new requirement all campuses must have an armed security officer during regular hours," said Chief John Lawton.

HB 3, which takes effect September 1 requires Texas school districts to have at least one armed guard at every school campus.

"We are working diligently to make this happen," explained Lawton.

With the deadline looming, Dr. Stephanie Elizalde says the district needs to hire 167 additional armed officers.

The superintendent says that won't happen due to a lack of time and available candidates.


North Texas schools scrambling to get armed security for all campuses ahead of new mandate

It's the 11th hour for several districts in our area. For most of the districts, they have school resource officers for secondary schools, like high school and junior high. But now, elementary schools need to be covered.

Elizalde is asking the board to approve an alternative plan as stated by the Texas Education Agency that would allow the district to use a mix of licensed peace officers and armed security guards.

In the meantime, adjustments will be made.

"We will begin by deploying as many of our officers who are in supervisory roles," said Elizalde. "This means they're going to be taking on some additional responsibilities. Some of our sergeants who supervise officers will be assigned to certain areas along with our patrols that we currently have."

Elizalde says all middle and high school campuses will have an armed security officer in place as students return.

Other officers with DISD Police will rotate through elementary schools until more personnel can be hired.

Elizalde says the district is working to hire licensed peace officers and what's called "Level 3" armed security guards.

L&P Global Security employs Level 3 armed officers and has contracts with two other North Texas school districts, Wylie and Allen.

"They are ready to go. It's just getting them over there," said Charles Hollis, the Director of Operations for L&P Global Security.

Mesquite ISD tells FOX 4 it's recommending to its board Monday evening to approve a contract for armed security officers.

Other school districts are now going to have to consider implementing a marshal program which allows district staff to be armed. Elizalde says she won't go there.

"There are so many things that can go wrong with a marshal or guardian plan," she said. "Our goal here is to ensure we do have access to other resources. That is not an option that is on the table for Dallas ISD at this time."

Elizalde says part of the problem is a lack of funding.

The state is giving the school district $15,000 per campus to hire armed security guards.

Elizalde says the average starting salary for a Level 3 armed security guard is about $40,000. This will become a new yearly expense for which schools will need to budget.

Elizalde says they'll find the money.

Over in Richardson ISD at Thursday night’s school board meeting, members voted to hire 36 armed campus security officers as district employees. The plan does not include contracting with a private security firm for armed guards.

But until all the spots are filled, Richardson ISD says off-duty police officers will rotate through assigned elementary schools throughout the school day starting the first day of school Monday. 

"Is it the perfect plan? No, it’s not. Is it the right plan? I would argue it’s the right plan for us today," said board member Chris Poteet.

Dallas and Richardson ISDs are both among many districts applying for an available exemption from the state. While they won't be penalized if an armed guard isn't on every campus by Sept. 1, they must submit a plan on how they'll eventually comply with the law.