WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Over 700 laws are now in effect across the state, and Wichita Falls Independent School District has found itself not in compliance with one of them.
House Bill 3 requires all district campuses to have at least one armed security officer, but the district’s police department is facing a shortage.
House Bill 3 never outlines penalties against districts so the district won’t face any penalties, but in a special session on Monday, September 11, 2023, the board of trustees approved a resolution that helps them be in line with the bill.
The board unanimously approved a ‘good cause exception,’ which claims the district is unable to meet the requirements due to the insufficient availability of funding or qualified personnel.
The district has the budget to hire 16 officers, and so far, Chief of Police Anthony Smith has hired six. However, he is still in need of 11 officers to have an armed security officer at every campus.
Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee said it’s a slow process and is making sure every candidate is fit and qualified.
“Instead of hurrying up and rushing, putting just anybody at the campus, we’re going to slow down, take our time, ensure that every officer is trained, that they’re highly qualified and then we will hire them,” Lee said. “And so that resolution buys us some time. That, with the goal of getting that done by 2024-2025.”
Also included in House Bill 3, lawmakers allocated $1.1 billion for the Texas Education Agency to award grants to districts to help pay for safety requirements.
One of the items purchased is a silent alarm system which Lee said is at every campus. According to him, it not only notifies WFISD police but the city and sheriff’s offices as well.
It’s an investment Lee said ensures safety on campuses.
“We’ve also got grant money for radios, two-way radios, which is critical,” Lee said. “Communication needs to enhance the security measures through the vehicles. So we have really revamped the police department through a number of ways, and a lot of that is through grant funding.”
According to Lee, both education and students’ safety are a priority when in the classroom.
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