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Fort Worth parents hire off-duty officer for security, fight for statewide implementation

"It makes me sad that not every child or school has what we have. And that's why we want everyone to have what we have," said Spurgeon.

FORT WORTH, Texas — A group of Fort Worth parents have band together to try to improve the safety of their school. 

It started with the tragedy in Uvalde, where 18 school children and two teachers were murdered. Late May marks the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.

"It was very hard to watch," said Amber Spurgeon, who started the nonprofit Texans Against School Violence. She's also a mother of two children at Tanglewood Elementary.  

"It's a sad world, it's a scary world. Our children are our future," said Charity Aughinbaugh, another parent with the nonprofit.

Texans Against School Violence, or TASV, was created in October and launched in November of 2022. 

"Our mission is to provide protection for every child, through law enforcement security measures, at every Texas public school campus," reads a description of the nonprofit on its web page.

Parents have pooled their money to have an off-duty Fort Worth Police Officer at the elementary. In Fort Worth Independent School District there are no school resource officers at elementary campuses but there is still campus security. This program would offer a uniformed officer at four-hour shifts during the school day.

Another Fort Worth school is exploring the idea of having a uniformed officer.

"We wanted it not just for the children but for the staff, that was just as important for us," said Spurgeon.

Fort Worth police have a rotation of about 12 officers working the shifts. They can be seen at morning dropoff and afternoon pickup.

"We're just imperfect people trying to do a perfect job," said Tracy Carter of the Fort Worth Police Department.

When the nonprofit was thinking through their options to improve safety, they met with state lawmakers and the school district. They ultimately learned getting a school resource officer program could take two years. And the State passing a funding bill could take even longer.

"Which is why we chose the route we chose. We don't have two years to protect our kids," said Keeton Monahan.

Last month, the parents and Fort Worth police officers met with several lawmakers and staff in Austin to discuss funding the initiative statewide. Bills like HB 3 could generate the funding needed for all schools.

"It makes me sad that not every child or school has what we have. And that's why we want everyone to have what we have," said Spurgeon.

Protection from an active shooter is one thing, but investment is another. Spurgeon told WFAA they wanted the officers to be 'more than security.' The nonprofit wants the officers routinely engaging with the officers and building a positive relationship.

"Yes, they're safe, but they're also gaining trust with an officer they haven't had before," said parent Peter Dean.

Carter tells WFAA its about establishing a one-to-one connection with the students. It's about reversing the stigma that officers are about taking you to jail.

"If we start smaller and younger we may not have to deal with them later," said Officer Carter.

The parents understand that not a lot of parents in most Texas schools can afford to hire an off-duty officer. That's why their hope is efforts in Austin will gain traction. Mass shootings are an unfortunate part of our new reality. Uvalde was too close and a reminder this can happen anywhere.

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