In the wake of multiple school shootings across the nation, Texas is attempting to arm more teachers to take down potential school shooters. 

The school marshal program in Texas began in 2013 but gained popularity following the Santa Fe High School shooting in May 2018. The devastating mass killing claimed the lives of 10 people and left 13 others wounded.

According to KUT, the program aims to train and arm teachers, administrators and other staff to be prepared for possible gunmen.

There is a push from state politicians to have at least 170 appointed school marshals around the state. Not all districts have marshals yet, but the program seeks to expand to all school districts. Sante Fe is one of them.

Critics of the program, however, believe the move will only make the situation worse and highlight other issues such as racial profiling. One of those critics is Ahmir Johnson, a senior at Round Rock High School. Ahmir and others believe the marshals will not be able to check their personal biases. 

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“I have dreads, I’m African American, so as soon as people see me, they open up the book and just read me. That’s something I’m going to have to deal with my whole life,” he said. “Training might help, but at the end of the day, teachers having guns at their disposal is not right in my eyes.”

Marshals are required to take classes teaching them when to use force, how to use basic firearms and learn strategies for dealing with active shooters. The marshal trainees will also have to pass a psychological exam.

In April, the Texas state Senate passed several bills to expand the program. A law from state Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would allow more school personnel to carry firearms at schools. State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) wants marshals to walk freely with their concealed guns instead of keeping them locked away. There is also a bill from state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola,) which would grant school marshals immunity from lawsuits. 

The Texas Tribune reports other experts on the matter said the move would only further facilitate the school-to-prison pipeline. Teachers are essentially guards under the program. If an educator believes a Black or brown child is a threat, a teacher can use their weapon with near impunity

Black students are reportedly punished disproportionately compared to their white counterparts. 

Data from the Texas Education Association recorded for the 2017-18 school year showed Black students made up 25% of in-school suspensions and 33% of out-of-school suspensions. Black students are only 13% of the student body population in the state.

“We already get profiled based on the clothes we wear, how we look, our hair, what color our eyes are — and the main thing is the color of our skin,” Johnson said. “[Lawmakers] can’t cover up how these programs might have an unintentional impact on students of color.”

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