Senate school safety panel issues recommendations
Texas Legislature School Safety
Date Posted: 8/07/2018
The Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security released its interim report today. The charges were issued by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick following the school shooting at Santa Fe High School. The four charges involved studying (1) school infrastructure and design to address school security; (2) programs within schools aimed at school safety; (3) the root causes of school mass murders; and (4) the effectiveness of protective order laws in Texas and other states.
Interim charge number three, which focused on mental health issues in schools, received a considerable amount of attention in the report. School counselors and other mental health resources are emphasized under the correlating recommendations. The fewest number of recommendations surfaced from studying protective order laws, which involve temporarily restricting firearm access to certain individuals who pose extreme risk. No recommendation was made to enact a version of protective order laws known as a “red flag” law, which Governor Abbott proposed but Patrick strongly rejected. Regarding firearms, there is a recommendation to consider funding for supporting school marshal programs.
The full recommendations from each charge are listed below. The full report can be viewed here.
School infrastructure and design recommendations
- Consider legislation to allow additional funds for school districts to implement enhanced physical security including metal detectors, alarm systems, cameras, and hardened entrances.
- Consider updates to school building codes to ensure best practices are used in designing new school facilities.
- Consider legislation to clarify that school districts must identify a campus administrator who is responsible for identifying and maintaining contact with local law enforcement, local emergency agencies, and fire departments in their security audits.
- Consider legislation giving TEA oversight to ensure required school security audits are being completed and ensure TEA has the staff necessary to oversee compliance.
- Direct the State Fire Marshal’s Office to review and provide guidance on procedures and sequences concerning school evacuations for unverified emergencies and the required number of fire drills mandated for schools.
School safety programs recommendations
- Consider the appropriate level of funding for and involvement of fusion centers.
- Review Penal Code Chapter 46.03 and provisions by which school districts authorize individuals to carry concealed weapons onto campus and consider establishing a minimum standard for training hours.
- Consider legislation to allow additional funds for training for school marshals and individuals licensed to carry under Chapter 46.03 of the Penal Code.
Root causes of school violence recommendations
- Consider legislation to direct TEA to incorporate school counselor data into PEIMS regarding location and number of students served.
- Review the effectiveness and unintended consequences of “zero tolerance” polices in Texas schools.
- Consider methods to increase the availability of school counselors, Licensed Specialists in School Psychology, and school social workers in schools, particularly in rural and remote areas of the state.
- Consider legislation codifying the duties and responsibilities of school counselors, Licensed Specialists in School Psychology, and school social workers.
- Consider legislation incorporating threat assessment teams into Health Advisory or School Safety Committees already on campus.
- Expand the availability of Mental Health First Aid training for all school district employees interacting with students.
- Review the use of Disciplinary Alternative Placement Education Programs (DAEP) and consider behavior intervention methods.
- Consider expanding the use of telemedicine and telepsychiatry to help children in crisis obtain access to mental health services before violence occurs.
- Consider legislation to strengthen the state’s mental health system by leveraging the expertise of state medical schools by creating psychiatry hubs that connect pediatricians seeking consultation with experts in mental health.
Protective order laws recommendations
- Consider legislation to clarify current statute on whether and when an individual convicted of domestic violence may possess a firearm legally.
- Consider legislation to clarify current statute regarding the return of firearms to individuals who have been detained and declared to no longer be a risk to themselves or others.
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