Argyle ISD "Marshals" Will Soon Carry Guns on Campus

Like air marshals', the identities of Argyle ISD's "marshals" will remain secret. This anonymous contingent of staff members, known only to school administration, the local police, and the Texas Department of Public Safety, has been authorized to possess handguns on campus to respond to the threat of an "active shooter." The school board approved the policy Tuesday in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

The marshals have been chosen from a volunteer pool, all of whom possess concealed carry permits and have "passed a rigorous interview process, a complete psychological evaluation and a comprehensive firearms and emergency response training course," according to a press release.

This is the second step the district has taken to create an armed presence in its schools. Last fall, the board formed the Argyle ISD Police Department. School officials see the marshals bridging a crucial gap in response time. "Armed staff answers the question: What about the first 1 to 2 minutes in [a] crisis situation where there's an armed shooter," Superintendent Telena Wright told the Denton Record-Chronicle. "That seems to be a horrific situation that all schools across the nation are attempting to address."

The district isn't specifying how exactly this will all work in order to "maintain strategic integrity" of the plan, it says. But the brand-new state law on which this authority is based requires marshals working directly with students to keep their guns in a lockbox "within immediate reach." If they aren't, they'll be free to carry a concealed weapon.

The law, authored by Republican Dallas Representative Jason Villalba, was presented as an option for small districts that can't afford their own campus police. Law enforcement experts, including the DPS director, are on record warning that armed teachers run the risk of getting shot by responding officers. "Anytime you arrive on the scene ... you as a police officer ... are taught and trained to look for anybody with a weapon," DPS' Steve McCraw said.

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Brantley Hargrove