Texas Governor Greg Abbott unveils strategies for school safety after Santa Fe shooting

Texas Governor Greg Abbott recommended dozens of strategies to make schools safer this Wednesday following the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston.

Abbott unveiled a 43-page report of recommendations on Wednesday that includes increasing the presence of law enforcement at schools. He also suggests more mental health screening for students. A handful of recommendations involved gun safety.

Abbott says funding will be aided by federal grants, though some recommendations require state lawmakers to weigh in.

The report was released a day after students returned to Santa Fe High School for the first time since the May 18, 2018 shooting that killed eight students and two substitute teachers.

The recommendations follow three days of mostly closed-door meetings last week that Abbott organized after the shooting. The staunch gun-rights supporter met with school districts, shooting survivors and groups on both sides of the gun-control debate, among others.

Many of Abbott's recommendations on how to improve school safety revolve around increasing security at schools and mental health awareness.

Among recommendations Abbott revealed Wednesday are that campuses by "hardened" by actions that could include creating vestibules where doors must by remotely unlocked before visitors can enter, installing metal detectors and having an alarm that would signal there's an active shooter.

He also suggested the Legislature consider requiring the Texas Education Agency to create a formal review process of school districts' safety audits.

Other recommendations included training more teachers and school employees to carry handguns on campus.

Abbott is also recommending an expansion of a program that identifies students at risk of committing violence and provides help for them.

He also wants to increase the number of people trained to identify signs of mental illness and increase awareness of a state system that allows people to report people who may be a threat and suspicious activity.

A full list of the Governor's recommendations can be found below.

 

IMMEDIATE FUNDING ASSISTANCE TO SANTA FE

Governor’s Criminal Justice Division Grants:

 

•              Deploying Crisis Response Counselors To Meet Immediate Mental Health Needs.

•              Assisting Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Efforts to Provide a Long-Term Behavioral Health Response.

•              Ensuring First Responders Have Mental Health Resources.

•              Providing Additional Counselors to ISDs in the Santa Fe Area.

•              Providing Highly-Trained Counselors to Santa Fe ISD for the Upcoming School Year.

•              Coordinating Long-Term Community Mental Health Efforts.

U.S. Department Of Education Grant:

•              Office of the Governor has worked with the U.S. Department of Education to immediately deliver $1 million to Santa Fe ISD through the School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program.

MAKING SCHOOLS SAFER

Immediately Increase Law Enforcement Presence At Schools:

•              Schools should collaborate with local law enforcement to heighten police presence on school campuses.

•              Prioritize hiring retired peace officers – specifically police, sheriffs, and constables – and military veterans for school security.

Train More School Marshals And Improve The Program:

•              Increase the number of school marshals by funding training this summer. 

•              Increase the number of school marshals that can be appointed per school. 

•              Remove the firearm storage requirement for school marshals who are in direct contact with students.

•              Revamp marshal training requirements to focus more time on firearms training.

•              Require annual refresher courses to maintain school marshal skills.

Provide Active Shooter And Emergency Response Training:

•              Protect students and teachers by better preparing campus security to respond to active shooters.

•              The Texas School Safety Center will deliver a workshop-based course that allows for hands-on application of high-quality planning practices.

•              The Texas School Safety Center will partner with the I Love You Guys Foundation to provide training in the Standard Response Protocol and the Standard Reunification Method for school personnel.

Hardening Of Campus Facilities:

•              Improve the infrastructure and design of Texas schools to prevent security threats. 

Prioritize Increased Federal Funding Toward Immediate School Safety Improvements:

•              TEA will work with school districts to prioritize $62.1 million in new federal funding toward immediate school safety improvements, including school hardening, increased law enforcement patrols, implementation of mental health programs, and other recommendations discussed in this plan

Strengthen Existing Campus Security Programs:

•              The Texas Education Agency (TEA) should review school districts’ and charter schools’ school safety and security audits. 

•              Specifically require certain members of the community to serve on an ISD or charter school’s safety and security committee. 

•              The School Safety and Security Committee should be required to discuss with local law enforcement the expansion of patrol zones to include the school district. 

•              The School Safety and Security Committee should hold meetings at least three times per year.

•              School Safety and Security Committees should periodically provide updates to the school board. 

•              Schools should be required to notify parents if a significant threat to students’ safety occurs. 

PREVENTING THREATS IN ADVANCE

Provide Mental Health Evaluations That Identify Students At Risk Of Harming Others And Provide Them The Help They Need:

•              To enhance school safety and ensure additional behavioral health services are available to students on-campus, expand access to Texas Tech Health Sciences Center’s Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project.

Increase Mental Health First Aid Training:

•              Increase Mental Health First Aid training during summer 2018

Provide Schools with Behavioral Threat Assessment Programs:

•              The Texas School Safety Center will partner with SIGMA Threat Management to deliver training on Behavioral Threat Assessment to school personnel.

Better Utilize And Expand On-Campus Counseling Resources:

•              Prioritize the importance of the mental and behavioral health needs of students by freeing up counselors to focus on those needs, encourage school district’s to add more counselors at the campus level, and appropriate funds to fill in gaps.

Expand Campus Crime Stoppers Programs:

•              Expand Crime Stoppers operations and launch an awareness campaign for school employees and students to encourage the reporting of tips related to school crime.

Use Digital Technology to Prevent Attacks:

•              Increase the use and awareness of DPS’ “iWatch Texas” reporting system to enable and encourage parents, students, and teachers to easily report potential harm or criminal activity directed at school students, school employees, and schools.

Deploy More Fusion Centers To Monitor Social Media For Threats:

•              Increase the number of fusion centers in Texas to improve law enforcement’s ability to identify, process, and resolve potential threats that appear on social media.

Improve Mental Health Crisis Response Infrastructure:

•              To better respond to the needs of students and school faculty in the aftermath of a crisis, expand the Texas Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Network to improve outcomes.

Increase The Safety Of Charter Schools:

•              Include charter schools in the same school safety requirements as Independent School Districts. 

•              Allowing charter schools to access similar safety options as Independent School Districts.

Remove From The Classroom Students Who Threaten Teachers:

•              Protect school employees by implementing a zero-tolerance policy for students who commit assault.

•              To improve the learning environment by making campuses safer, expand the list of offenses for which a student may be expelled or placed in a disciplinary alternative educational program.

•              When a student is placed in a DAEP classroom, the school district should implement a cycle of restorative practices designed to address the underlying mental or behavioral health issues, including screenings from the TWITR project or similar programs. 

ENHANCING FIREARMS SAFETY

Close Critical Information Gaps To Help Prevent Shootings Like That In Sutherland Springs:

•              Create a statewide case management system to provide magistrates immediate access to critical information and to speed the timely reporting of court records for federal background checks.

Study A Protective Order Law To Keep Guns Out Of The Hands Of Those Mentally Unfit To Bear Arms, But Only After Legal Due Process Is Allowed To Ensure Second Amendment Rights Are Not Violated:

•              Encourage the Texas Senate and House leaders to issue an interim charge to consider the merits of adopting a red flag law allowing law enforcement, a family member, school employee, or a district attorney to file a petition seeking the removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person only after legal due process is provided.

Mandate A 48-Hour Reporting Period To Close Gaps In Federally Mandated Background Checks:

•              Adjudications affecting the right to legally purchase and possess firearms should be reported within 48 hours. This 48-hour requirement should also extend to protective orders and family violence convictions. Courts should ensure that all disqualifying felony convictions are entered as soon as possible.

Strengthening The Safe Firearm Storage Law:

•              To help ensure firearm safety, make modifications to the Texas gun storage law.

Promote Awareness Of Safe Storage Practices:

•              Promote voluntary use of gun locks.

•              Increase notification and awareness of the law.

Mandatory Reporting Of Lost Or Stolen Guns:

•              To aid law enforcement, require that gun owners report when their firearms are lost or stolen within 10 days.

 

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