House Bill 567 passed out of the judiciary Wednesday by an 11 to 8 vote.

The bill looks to establish a school marshal program in public schools.

Representative Derek Skees introduced the bill which would allow the board of trustees to appoint a school district employee to be certified as a school marshal.

Skees told legislators many rural schools in Montana have requested a school resource officer, but he said the county sheriff's office lacks funding to place a school resource officer in every school.

The state of Texas faced a similar problem and representative Skees modeled this bill from their concept.

"I gave the authority to the school board's to see how this works for them, I gave the authority to determine the exact programming," said Skees. "The program is around 500 hours. I figured the folks going through it should focus on SRO components so it'll be lower but of course we'd go to the academy and have them design the program. So I'm offering an option for the school districts to have a resource officer and have it come out of their budgets."

Jerry Williams, the executive director of the Montana Police protective association opposes the bill.

Williams says the school marshal program lacks the ongoing training and experience that sworn peace officers have, who've attended the Montana Law Enforcement Academy.

"We have training all the time for law enforcement officers. They go through the basic academy and most of them spend 14 weeks working with and under the direction of a certified officer,"Williams added. "Once they're out on their own, other administrators continue to keep an eye on them. Picking up a weapon and having a concealed and thinking that you're going to handle a situation that you've never been in... you're not going to handle it.

The bill is scheduled to be reviewed for a second reading by the house.

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