Texas Gov. signs school safety bills
(Texas) Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a sweeping set of bills aimed at improving school safety and expanding access to mental health services.
Most prominent among the package is SB 11, by state Sen. Larry Todd, R-Friendswood, which calls on school districts to develop new operations plans to better guide students and staff in the event of an emergency.
Also signed into law was HB 18 by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, which will increase mental health training for educators and other school professionals, especially in the early identification and intervention of troubled students. Finally, Abbott signed HB 1387 by Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant, which will remove the cap on the number of school marshals that may be appointed per campus.
The bills are among the ideas from a select committee on school violence that was convened in the wake of the 2018 school shooting at a Santa Fe High School where 10 people were killed and 13 were wounded.
“After the horrific shooting in Santa Fe and the subsequent school safety roundtables, I made school safety an emergency item to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening again,” said Abbott said at a signing ceremony last week. “Today, I am proud to sign legislation to make Texas schools safer for students and teachers. I thank members from both chambers, as well as the many stakeholders, who worked tirelessly to get these bills through the Legislature and to my desk today.”
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, districts 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.