Editors note: This story was updated to correct a spelling error in the last name of Mike Wanke.
SAN MARCOS (Nexstar) — The Texas House is poised for a Monday vote on its omnibus school safety bill after the Senate passed another sweeping package, in an effort to harden school campuses and create more accountability in the aftermath of the nation’s second worst school shooting in Uvalde.
Meanwhile, school districts with the ability have been exploring safety systems from the private sector — whether it’s silent panic alert systems or bullet-resistance glass windows.
On Friday, a group of Texas school administrators attended a demonstration at the ALERRT Center in San Marcos. The demo was put on by a C-Bond Systems, a company that makes entry and bullet-resistant products.
Mike Wanke, a representative for C-Bond’s “Patriot Glass” product, said he believes this type of window would have saved lives in the private Nashville school shooting, where the suspect was able to break into the school after shooting through the glass entry door to let herself in.
“We’re going to shoot through it because it’s not designed to stop bullets, it’s designed to stop people from entering through an opening,” Wanke said during the demo in reference to the entry-resistant product.
Another one of its glass windows is completely bullet resistant, which he said is due to the type of solution and material used to make the glass. During the demo, the group banged bats against the glass and shot through it with an AR-15 weapon. While the glass shattered from the front, it was not penetrable with the backside looking practically undamaged.
“How much time do you think they’re going to spend trying to get through this before somebody arrives,” Wanke asked. “It’s not the only solution. We’re part of a bunch of different components.”
The Texas Education Agency has guidance recommending updated windows that could be bullet proof for school districts, but does not require it.
Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said he wants to make sure schools don’t have unfunded mandates.
“I think school districts should have the flexibility to decide what’s best for them,” he told Nexstar.
Legislative efforts to bolster school safety
On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed its overhaul school safety, Senate Bill 11, that was comprised of five key recommendations from one of the summer interim committees formed in the aftermath of the Robb Elementary massacre.
Sen. Robert Nichols, (R-Jacksonville), said the bill would address many of the issues uncovered after Uvalde.
His legislation would create a new department within the TEA, tasked with overseeing safety and security for districts. It would authorize the TEA to force districts to adopt active-shooter policies and threatens to punish those that don’t, with TEA having the ability to take over a non-compliant district.
“We’ve got to have stricter control,” Nichols said. “And it’s important to have somebody go by those schools and check them.”
The bill additionally requires school police to complete active shooter training at ALERRT, after law enforcement in Uvalde took more than 77 minutes to enter the classroom and take down the gunman last May. It also aims to strengthen truancy laws in Texas, which is widely considered as one of the warning signs that a student might need intervention.
On the House side, the legislature’s sweeping school safety bill, House Bill 3, was authored by the chairman of the House’s Uvalde investigation and is up for a vote Monday.
HB 3 would implement new security requirements for physical infrastructure and intruder auditing, as well as require an armed security officer on every public school campus in Texas. Under the measure, the officer could also be selected employees with a concealed handgun license who are appointed by the school board to become school marshals.
It would also require the TEA to complete at least one audit a year on every school campus, evaluating whether an intruder could gain unsecured, unauthorized access to a district campus. Every five years the Texas School Safety Center would be required to review building standards for school buildings.
The bill gives the education commissioner the ability to assign the district a conservator or temporarily replace the school board if a district fails to submit to the required safety monitoring or comply with the safety and security requirements set out in the law.
It would also require local sheriffs working in counties with a population under 350,000 people to coordinate two meetings every year between school officials and all law enforcement that could respond to a school violence incident, including the constable, police department and Texas Department of Public Safety personnel assigned to the county.
The sheriff would be required to submit a report to the school safety center listing the people who attended the meeting and all the issues discussed.
Kelly Wiley and John Thomas contributed to this report.