More than 20 new sheriff’s deputies will deploy to public school campuses at three districts in Galveston County when classes resume in the fall as part of security force expansion in response to a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in May.
Galveston County commissioners on Wednesday approved three contracts expanding the pool of school resource officers by 24 deputies, an increase of more than 45 percent from the 48 that had been assigned to schools.
Up to 70 deputies will be dispatched to schools in the Clear Creek Independent School District, the Texas City Independent School District and the Dickinson Independent School District to provide security, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.
Fifteen of the new deputies will serve at Clear Creek ISD, and eight will serve in Texas City and La Marque schools. One additional deputy will be sent to Dickinson.
School district officials requested the additional deputies after the May 18 shooting that left 10 people dead and 13 more injured.
The added force will be noticeable, particularly at middle and elementary schools, Trochesset said.
“That’s an obvious number of officers they’ll see on campuses,” he said.
The school districts will be responsible for bearing the costs of the new deputies, County Judge Mark Henry said. The districts also will have the power in future years to decide whether to reduce the number of deputies on campus.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the expansion.
“To ensure the safety of the children in the county is appropriate,” Commissioner Ken Clark said. “By doing this, we’re taking care of it immediately and getting it worked out.”
School boards governing the three districts already had approved expanding the security forces. Clear Creek ISD will pay about $1.2 million for its new deputies. Texas City ISD will spend about $654,700. Dickinson’s new position will cost the district an additional $80,000.
The vote was the latest in a series of actions by school districts since the shooting. Almost every school district in the county has chosen to expand the size of its security departments in some way since the shooting.
The sheriff’s office contracts with some school districts to provide campus security. Other districts, including Santa Fe and Galveston, have their own police departments.
Santa Fe public school officials earlier this summer voted to expand the district police force by five officers and five security guards. The district plans to have a total of 14 full-time officers, 10 part-time officers and five “campus security assistants” working at its schools this year.
Galveston school officials also plan to add new officers.
The Hitchcock Independent School District school board voted to create a police department. The district had contracted with the city for campus security officers.
The sheriff’s office plans to hire the 24 new officers by Aug. 20, the beginning of the school year, Trochesset said. About 17 new deputies are ready to be hired, he said.
The Santa Fe shooting didn’t necessarily mean other schools in the county were more vulnerable to attacks, Trochesset said. The shooting might result in more arrests over issues related to school safety, however, he said.
There had been an increase in the number of young people arrested for making threats against schools since the shooting, he said. The sheriff’s office has made investigating such threats a priority, he said.
“More officers usually mean more safety,” Trochesset said. “It means a faster response to any issues or incidents that occur.”