Texas Senate Introduces Extensive School Safety Reform Bill
From drafting new safety plans to increasing mental health resources on campuses, Texas lawmakers have varied proposals for addressing school safety this legislative session.
At a Texas Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Larry Taylor laid out a bill that he hopes will prevent tragedies like the mass shooting in his district last May. The incident at Santa Fe High School left 10 dead and 13 injured. SB 11 would expand safety requirements at schools and increase mental health resources on campuses.
“We say a lot of times that education is the most important thing we do in Texas, but it’s really right below public safety,” Taylor said. “If you’re not safe, it doesn’t matter how well you’re educated.”
The proposal would require school districts to develop a safety plan, which will be submitted for review to Texas State University'sTexas School Safety Center.
In addition, districts would create safety committees that work in tandem with local law enforcement.
SB 11 also focuses on mental health resources available on school campuses. If passed into law, the bill would help fund more mental health training for teachers. Taylor said he hoped additional support would make teachers more aware of how to identify at-risk students.
At the hearing Tuesday, several legislators noted that one of the best ways to help at-risk students is more mental health specialists on school campuses.
The bill aims to boost recruitment of school counselors by offering a student loan forgiveness program to potential employees. Currently, the bill would set aside $2 million to fund the initiative and although the program would require continuous funding, Taylor said he thinks lawmakers in future sessions will find a way to make ends meet.
“When people see the benefits of having more mental health counselors, I think they’ll have future legislation to pay for this to make sure that we have this program going and that we have all the mental health counselors we need,” Taylor said.
As proposed, the bill would give school districts $50 or more per full-time student. Allocated funds would help campuses comply with new safety requirements, like increasing the number of available school resource officers. Part of the funding would come from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
Lawmakers at the hearing said it’s time to do everything “in our power” to prevent another school shooting.
“It is one of the core roles of government,” Republican Sen. Angela Paxton said about educating students. “And if we do not have safe schools, we can’t accomplish that goal.”