Despite opposition Tuesday night, Collin College became the first community college in Texas to authorize the school marshal program. The vote passed 5-4, with trustees Adrian Rodriguez, Stacey Donald, Raj Menon and Steve Matthews against.
By adopting the school marshal program, the Collin College Board of Trustees is permitting licensed staff and faculty members to intercede during a mass shooting or emergency crisis that could threaten serious injury to students, faculty, staff or visitors on school premises. The school marshal program was first enacted during the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature in 2013 and was expanded in 2015 to include public two-year colleges.
Several people spoke during Tuesday’s board meeting, including student Sarah Mitchell.
“It is not as easy as a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun. Even the best trained members of the military react differently when bullets start flying,” she said. “Regardless of training, you don’t know how people will respond in life or death situations until the moment comes.”
All prospective school marshals must complete 80 hours of training addressing physical security, improving campus security, use of force, active shooter response and weapon proficiency. Even with training, the opponents feared an increase of guns on campus would only increase the risk of incident, especially in the hands of someone other than a trained officer.
“I will move my son if this passes," said parent Michelle Ray. "We won’t be able to get out of here quick enough if you bring more guns on campus.”
Debbie O’Reilley of Allen said that when the school marshal plan was signed in 2015, it was geared toward K-12 schools in areas with limited police and emergency response during a crisis. Over the years, Collin County has outgrown its former rural image and emerged with several populated cities.
“We have plenty of police officers in every single city that we have a college,” O’Reilly said. "Colleges have two police officers on campus at all times, and I’m asking you to let them do their job."
Still, the majority of board members decided to allow faculty and staff to volunteer and train for the school marshal program.
“Guns on campus are already a fact of life,” said Board Chair Dr. Bob Collins after Senate Bill 11 allowed license holders to carry concealed handguns on college and university campuses and community college campuses.
“This policy provides for specialized training for those who are most likely already license holders and who wish to be considered for the program, which we believe will lead to a safer environment on our campuses,” he said.
Last month, 86 percent of students and 69 percent of faculty showed support for the school marshal program according to a survey of students, faculty and staff. There were 565 responses.
District President Dr. Neil Matkin said the addition of the school marshal program is centered on providing a safe and secure campus environment.
“We are all working for the safety of our students and look forward to sharing the details of the program with our education partners,” Matkin said.
The board’s approval is the first step in a series of steps before school marshals are walking the campus. Fully implementing the school marshal program takes several months of planning and development, policy review, revisions and budget authorizations.