Governor Abbott reports progress of School Safety Action Plan

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released the State’s report on the progress made with school safety.

Shortly after the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in May 2018, Abbott convened various stakeholders to make recommendations. His office says out of the 31 recommendations, 25 were implemented and 17 of them in the form of new school safety laws in the 86th Legislative Session. 

The report breaks down the progress in three key areas: preventing threats in advance, making schools safer, and agency response.

In Greater Houston, two non-profits are playing a major role in preventing threats through the expansion of safety trainings and mental health resources.

In the report, Abbott mentions Crime Stoppers of Houston. Rania Mankarious, the organization's CEO, says since the Governor's plan, they've launched the Safe School Institute to take the tools and research they've developed over two decades statewide.

"We have probably trained 40 percent of the state at this point. We’ve had 5 trainings," explained Mankarious. 

Part of the Governor's Action Plan also includes House Bill 3316 which requires the Texas Crime Stopper Council to encourage school-based crime stoppers organizations. Mankarious says Houston has taken on that endeavor.

"How do we train those [independent school districts] to either tap into their closest crime stoppers jurisdictions or work with their designated municipality or local law enforcement," she added.

The funding associated with House Bill 3316 is expected to be allocated next month. However, Mankarious says Houston did not wait to undertake those trainings. For now, they do the work through the support of donors such as Aramco and Phillips66.

Communities in Schools Houston has also expanded their work particularly around mental health since last year.  

Lisa Descant, the CEO, says the need for more mental health programs is something educators had been talking about long before the shooting at Santa Fe High School.

 "It elevated the conversation and created an urgency that had to be responded to," she told FOX 26.

The organization looks forward to the additional support through Senate Bill 11. The bill also is part of the Governor's Action Plan and funding allotments are expected next month.

However, last year the state's budget did increase the organization's funding statewide. In Houston, that allowed for the expansion of their current mental health services such as promoting staff from part-time to full-time and operating in Fort Bend and Aldine independent school districts. It's also helping create a new program.

"Mobile mental health team. This is where we’re really enhancing the ability of our experts to provide intensive support for students," Descant added. The program would last 6 to 8 weeks at the school site.