Houston - The Texas PTA actively monitors school safety legislation, both implementation of laws enacted in 2019 and legislation filed in the 87th legislative session.
Here's a review of bills passed in the 87th Texas Legislature relating to school and student safety.
SCHOOL SAFETYSB 168 by Senator Cesar Blanco/Representative Claudia Ordaz Perez, relating to active shooter drills conducted by public schools.
Evidence suggests that active shooter drills may be harmful to the mental health of students and school staff. According to a recent study, active shooter drills are associated with increases in depression, stress and anxiety, and physiological health problems for children as young as five years old up to high schoolers, their parents, and teachers.
As finally passed S.B. 168 • requires a school district to adopt trauma-informed methods and policies regarding activeshooter drills prior to conducting a drill, • requires notification to parents, students, and staff of the timing of an active shooter drill, and • requires the collection of data to help determine the efficacy and impact of these drills.
SB 741 by Senator Brian Birdwell/Representative Scott Sanford, relating to the carrying or storage of a handgun by a school marshal.
As finally passed SB 741 authorizes a school marshal appointed by the board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school to carry a concealed handgun on the physical premises of a school or possess the handgun on the physical premises of a school in a locked and secured safe or other secured location. The bill removes the prohibition on a school marshall carrying a weapon if their primary duty involves regular, direct contact with students.A school marshal may use a handgun only under circumstances that would justify the use of deadly force.
SB 2050 by Senator Jose Menendez/Representative Steve Allison, relating to the prevention of and the reporting of incidents of bullying committed by public school students.
As finally passed SB 2050 expands on school board requirements for adopting a policy on bullying, adding that the policy must include procedures for preventing and mediating bullying incidents between students that interfere with a student’s educational opportunities or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of a classroom or other school related activities.
In addition, each district’s bullying policies must be in compliance with the minimum standards set by the Texas Education Agency. These minimum standards include an emphasis on bullying prevention by • focusing on school climate and building healthy relationships between students and staff; • requiring each district campus to establish a committee to address bullying; • requiring students at each grade level to meet periodically for instruction on building relationships and preventing bullying (including cyberbullying), and • including an emphasis on increasing student reporting of bullying incidents to school employees by increasing awareness about district reporting procedures and providing anonymous reporting of bullying incidents. • Districts are required to collect information annually through student surveys on bullying/cyberbullying.
Each school district and open-enrollment charter school must annually report through the Public Education Information Management System the number of reported incidents of bullying that have occurred at each campus. The district or school must specify the number of incidents of bullying that included cyberbullying.
HB 1080 by Rep. Jared Patterson/Senator Jane Nelson, relating to the eligibility for participation in UIL activities of certain public school students who receive outpatient mental health services.
As finally passed HB 1080 requires the UIL to ensure that its rules do not exclude from eligibility for participation in a UIL activity a student who meets the following criteria: • received outpatient mental health services from a mental health facility and was enrolled in a school district or open-enrollment charter school or • otherwise received public education services from a district or school.
CHILD AND YOUTH TRAFFICKING
HB 390 by Representative Senfronia Thompson/Senator Joan Huffman, relating to requirements for human trafficking awareness and prevention in commercial lodging establishments.
As finally passed the bill establishes training requirements for owners of a commercial lodging business to raise awareness of human trafficking. Requires posting of signage in lodging establishments with a phone number to call to report a suspected act of human trafficking. Adds civil penalty for an operator who fails to comply with training, signage, or reporting.
HB 465 by Representative Matt Shaheen/Senator Joan Huffman, relating to changing the eligibility for release on parole of certain inmates serving sentences for trafficking offenses involving one or more child victims.
As finally passed HB 465 establishes that persons who are convicted of continuing trafficking of children or benefiting from the trafficking of children are not eligible for release on parole until their actual sentence served, without consideration of good conduct time, equals one-half of the sentence or 30 calendar years, whichever is less.
HB 2633 by Representative Ann Johnson/Senator Joan Huffman, relating to resources provided to human trafficking victims and the establishment of the trafficked persons grant program.
As finally passed SB 2633 establishes a "Trafficked Persons Grant Program" for the purpose of • supporting publicly operated treatment centers, • raising awareness, and • preventing the recruitment of human trafficking victims.
A juvenile board may establish a trafficked persons program for the treatment and rehabilitation of children who are suspected to be victims of human trafficking or have been referred to the program by the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit. The bill creates a Voluntary Contribution for Trafficked Persons Program Account where residents can donate to the account when they register or renew the registration of their motor vehicle. The bill authorizes "Stop Human Trafficking" license plates and voluntary contributions to the Trafficked Persons Program account.
SB 1831 by Senator Larry Taylor/Representative Senfronia Thompson, relating to the increase of penalties for those who engage in the crime of solicitation or trafficking on school premises.
As finally passed SB 1831 establishes that schools must post signs informing people about the increased penalties for human trafficking and requiring that information relating to human trafficking prevention be included in the curriculum of any driver education course or driving safety course.
The punishment for an offense of human trafficking is enhanced from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony punishable by a term of imprisonment no less than 25 years if proven that the offense was committed on the premises of or within 1,000 feet of a public or secondary school, or at or within 1,000 feet of a UIL sanctioned function.
Additionally, the bill increases the punishment for online solicitation of a minor if it is proven that the actor committed the offense during regular public or private primary or secondary school hours and that the actor knew or reasonably should have known that the minor was enrolled in school during the offense.