SAN ANTONIO — Administrators across the state are scrambling to station an armed guard at every public school by Sept. 1, a deadline imposed by the passage of House Bill 3 in the Texas Legislature earlier this year.
The legislation, authored and approved in the wake of the 2022 mass shooting in Uvalde, is building frustration among some district leaders who say the law amounts to an "unfunded mandate." In San Antonio, the area's third-biggest district is asking for a free pass.
On Monday night, the San Antonio ISD school board unanimously approved claiming an exemption to House Bill 3. The exemptions are a way around the law for the time being, so long as districts can determine whether the necessity comes from a lack of funding or lack of qualified personnel.
SAISD invoked both.
“For years we’ve heard from students about overpolicing in our schools, and I think our district’s been responsive to that," said district trustee Sarah Sorensen. "(House bill 3) just feels out of touch and not necessarily a solution to our worst fear that someone will harm our children.”
District Police Chief Johnny Reyes, who formally requested the exemption, said he has 58 officers on staff and 10 open positions. Even if SAISD were to fill those spots, he says, there wouldn't be enough officers for every campus—of which there are more than 90 in the SAISD system.
Twenty-three SAISD campuses are currently staffed with armed personnel, Reyes said, adding some high schools have multiple officers.
"I'm very frustrated," he said. "I don't understand how this is a tool for us as a government body, for us as a police organization saying, 'This is how we're going to save lives.' It did nothing for us, but place more burden on us to say, 'Get it done now.' It really served no purpose for us."
The exemption filed by the board will last for two years, until the start of the next legislative session. House Bill 3 does state, however, that any district claiming an exemption from the law “must develop an alternative performance standard with which the district tis able to comply.”
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