House Bill 3 (HB3) in Texas added a new section to the Texas Education Code 37.0814. This new section mandates school boards to determine the appropriate number of armed security officers required for each campus, unless there is a valid reason for an exemption. This approach allows school boards to tailor security measures based on the unique needs of their schools. Additionally, the bill requires the presence of a security officer during school hours. HB3, which was approved by the Texas legislature in May and goes into effect on September 1, 2023, requires an armed officer on every campus.
HB3 relates to measures as it pertains to ensuring public school safety. Part of the framework for school board development is to approve a budget that maximizes resources and to approve goals, policies, and programs that ensures a safe and orderly learning environment. “As Alief ISD Board President I am committed to working collaboratively with the district to ensure that our students and staff are priority when it comes to providing a physically and mentally safe place for teaching and learning” stated Dr. Darlene Breaux, President of Alief ISD Board of Trustees.
The safety and security allotment in the state funding formulas provided approximately $360,000 in 2022-23. The district budgeted approximately $7.5 million for safety and security in the general fund prior to any new requirements for 2023-24 due to HB3. This does not include any bond funds used for safety and security upgrades in addition to general fund dollars. With HB3, Alief’s projected safety and security allotment is projected to be just over $1 million in 2023-24; an increase of approximately $700,000. The state funding increased from $9.72 per student to $10 per student and $15,000 per campus. This increase does not fund the mandates in the bill. School districts are currently struggling to meet the requirements of HB3 due to budget limitations.
Many school districts are facing challenges in hiring officers due to increased demand. Currently, Alief ISD has officers permanently stationed to secondary campuses. “Alief ISD has its own police department and is taking steps to enhance security measures in response to the requirements of HB3,” assured Dr. Anthony Mays, AISD Superintendent. “Hiring certified police officers and providing training help to aid in ensuring familiarity with district procedures and is a proactive approach to maintaining a safe learning environment for students and staff.”
The district is prioritizing safety and taking proactive measures to create a secure learning environment. The deployment of K9 units can indeed be a significant step in enhancing security within the schools. K9 officers can provide a visible presence that deters potential threats and offers reassurance to both students and staff.
“Patrolling 12 schools in a day with K9 units shows a commitment to comprehensive coverage and a rapid response if any security issues arise,” according to AlSD Chief of Police, Dan Turner. “Additionally, using K9 units that are trained to interact well with children and the school environment is crucial to ensure that their presence doesn’t cause unnecessary anxiety or fear among students.”
The addition of the K9 unit in Alief ISD will be beneficial on many levels, but most importantly, as a testament to the district’s commitment to ensuring our students and staff have a safe environment they can call home.