AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Eleven months after the Robb Elementary mass shooting, The Texas House of Representatives on Monday initially passed broad, bipartisan legislation intending to make schools safer.
House Bill 3 dedicates new funding for districts to improve physical barriers and security technology, requires every district to place an armed guard on every campus, and gives the state more oversight responsibility for safety protocol compliance. It passed the lower chamber 122-19. It now awaits a third and final vote in the House before heading to the Senate.
Lubbock Republican Dustin Burrows shepherded the bill through with El Paso Democrat Joe Moody after the two led the House investigation of the Robb Elementary mass shooting.
“The state of Texas must make fundamental changes the way we protect our school communities,” Burrows told members on the House floor Monday afternoon. “It is clear that we must not only beef up on campus security staffing, but also establish statewide standards for the security measures campuses must deploy.”
The bill creates a minimum school safety allotment for every district of at least $100 for every student and $15,000 per campus. That per-student allotment increased tenfold from the original bill’s allocation after a successful amendment from Rep. Moody.
Districts must use that additional funding to improve school safety in ways such as hiring officers and school safety directors, installing barriers and security cameras, and providing mental health personnel.
The provision to require armed security on every campus drew heated debate on the floor from some Democrats.
“How are we going to make sure that those people who are armed on school campuses are making them safer, not making them more dangerous?,” Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, said. “There are some precautions that we could take, such as a trigger lock, so that the only person that can shoot an armed personnel’s gun, is that particular armed personnel.”
Rep. Goodwin offered an amendment to require security officers to use trigger locks, but that amendment was voted down.
House Bill 3 would allow districts to fulfill that armed guard requirement with commissioned police officers, private security guards, or trained school staff. Rep. Burrows defended that provision, which could lead more districts to arm teachers.
“We give the school districts a variety of options to choose from,” he said. “Especially in some of the rural communities, some of our school districts are not going to find a full-time law enforcement officer to be able to do this. And so we utilize the guardianship marshal program in order to fulfill this requirement. I can tell you talking to parents, grandparents, educators, even classroom teachers from Uvalde, having somebody there as a security guard is a sense of safety.”
House Bill 13 also passed on Monday. That separate legislation, by Panhandle Republican King King, would make further provisions for mental health training and armed security.
Under this bill, each school district employee who regularly interacts with students would need to complete “mental health first aid training” to learn how to recognize and support students with mental heath issues. Costs for that training would be covered by the Texas Education Agency.
HB 13 also requires “school guardians” to complete training that equips them to carry a weapon on campus. These employees would receive a stipend of up to $25,000 per year to fulfill the responsibility.
The Legislative Budget Board anticipates those measures would cost the state more than $1.6 billion over the next two years.