Legislature marks shooting anniversary with new laws
(Texas) Just after the state Senators passed sweeping school safety legislation, members of the House considered Wednesday a bill that would upgrade communication between police and district administrators following the arrest of a student.
The legislative activity comes nearly a year after a school shooting at a Santa Fe High School where 10 people were killed and 13 were wounded.
SB 11 would, among other things, enhance mental health services to students, including the creation of threat assessment teams trained to better identify students or others that might pose a threat on campus.
“We cannot afford to do nothing, and a lot of times we get caught up here in the Legislature and we let perfect become the enemy of the good,” said state Sen. Larry Todd, R-Friendswood, the bill’s author, during floor debate Monday. “Today we have before us a bill that is good and would help protect our students in the future.”
HB 1825 by Rep. Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio, would require law enforcement agencies to give school managers more information about an arrest of a student. Specifically, the bill requires police to provide enough details about alleged misconduct of a student, so that school officials could better conduct a threat assessment and initiate safety precautions.
Last year, in the weeks following the shooting in Santa Fe, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott released a 40-point plan for improving school safety. Both bills being considered this week in Austin would address aspects of the governor’s proposal.
Earlier this month, state Senators approved legislation that would broaden the ability of some school employees to carry guns on campus.
The threat assessment conducted by district personnel, as defined by SB 11, must include not only an analysis of any individual’s behavior that might pose a risk to the school, but also an evaluation of how to intervene.
Districts would also be required to hire a non-physician mental health professional, whose job would be to help with school safety issues as well as risk assessment. That person would also be mandated to submit a report each year to the state’s Health and Human Services Commission on student outcomes related to safety.
The bill calls for more training of new classroom teachers on how grief and trauma affect student learning and behavior. There would also be a change to the number of instructional minutes to allow for new safety training by teachers.
Every three years, district would also be required to conduct a safety and security audit. The audit would include reports on individuals who make threats of violence or exhibit harmful, threatening, or violent behavior on campus; and data used to determine the level of risk; and appropriate intervention, including data on student referrals to mental health professionals.