First community college in Texas to authorize certified marshals on campus

The Collin College Board of Trustees approved a local policy at its Dec. 11 meeting that will authorize the development of an on-campus school marshal program.

First enacted during the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature in 2013, the Texas school marshal program was expanded in 2015 to include public two-year colleges. Collin College is the first community college district in Texas to authorize such a program.

According to the policy adopted by the trustees, school marshals at Collin College will only be authorized to act “to prevent or abate the commission of an offense that threatens serious bodily injury or death of students, faculty, staff, or visitors on school premises.”

Board approval was by a 5-4 margin and came after months of research by the college administration and discussion with the trustees. The board’s Organization, Education and Policy Committee reviewed, discussed and revised the proposed policy at three separate meetings this fall before presenting its recommendation to move forward Tuesday night. Discussion of the policy by the full board came after community members had the opportunity to address the trustees during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting.

“We understand the concerns expressed by many of our constituents and appreciate the feedback we have received,” said Dr. Bob Collins, board chair. “Together with the college administration, the board of trustees have thoroughly studied this issue.

“When Senate Bill 11 was signed into law in 2015, it provided that license holders could carry a concealed handgun on college and university campuses,” he said. “That law went into effect for community colleges in 2017. So guns on campus are already a fact of life.

“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.”

In November the college surveyed students, faculty and staff regarding the school marshal program. A total of 565 responses was received. When asked how they felt about having trained and certified armed employees available to assist college police in the event of a life-threatening situation on campus, 86% of students and 69% of faculty expressed their support.

District President Dr. Neil Matkin said he intends to have ongoing conversations with K-12 and university colleagues to reinforce the college’s goal of providing a safe and secure environment on its campuses. “We are all working for the safety of our students and look forward to sharing the details of the program with our education partners,” he said.

In presenting the recommendation to the board, Trustee Mac Hendricks, who chairs the Organization, Education and Policy Committee, pointed out that 170 public school districts in the state have already authorized the school marshal program. “This will train someone to take action during that window of opportunity to possibly save a lot of lives,” he said.

Trustee Jim Orr said that although school marshals will be unidentified to the public and the general population of the college, they will be known to local law enforcement through an integrated training component of the required training regimen. “This is a huge bonus,” he said.

Hendricks called the policy recommendation a first step and said that implementation of the school marshal program will take several months if not a full year, thereby giving the board ample opportunity for further discussion and fine tuning of the program.

The planning and development process will provide for board involvement at various stages, including policy review and revisions, budget authorization, and appointment of individuals designated as school marshals.

Applicants for the school marshal program will be required to have a current License to Carry (LTC) from the state and meet Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) requirements including psychological and extensive background checks. Candidates must also complete a training course of at least 80 hours, although Trustee Hendricks said his committee would recommend even more contact hours than required by the state.

When fully implemented, Collin College’s school marshal program will train full-time employees who have been vetted and approved by the board to be able to respond in the event of an active shooter or other life-threatening incident occurring on college property.

As a result of the board’s approval of the local policy at Tuesday’s meeting, Collin College will seek approval from TCOLE to conduct school marshal training at the new Public Safety Training Center in McKinney. Home of the college’s law enforcement and fire academies, the facility opened in August and has already been utilized by the FBI, the Texas Rangers, and numerous local law enforcement agencies for officer training.