Texas passed 17 laws, added $339M in security and mental health for students, report says

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — State lawmakers recently passed 17 new laws and added $339 million additional dollars for school security and student mental health.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office released a report detailing what’s been done since the Santa Fe school shooting in May 2018 called Improving School Safety in Texas.

The report details a 37% increase in school resource officer and teacher training in Mental Health First Aid from fiscal year 2017-18; 7,951 up to 12,722.

There were more than 10,000 school officials trained in 2019.

House Bill 18 by Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, allows a teacher to receive 15 hours of credit for going through the mental health first aid training. The Texas Education Agency and the Health and Human Services Commission are now promoting the program on their website.

A major part of Senate Bill 11 was the creation of “threat assessment team” training and requiring school district officials to take part. Since August 2018, the report details 425 people have participated in seven threat assessment workshops. The training is provided by SIGMA Threat Management Associates contracted through the Texas School Safety Center.

The Texas School Safety Center also delivered 17 workshops on school safety planning, training more than 600 people. The San Marcos-based center also hosted two Youth Preparedness Camps, which trained 156 Texas high school students in emergency response situations.

The center also will oversee audits of school districts and give them written responses for changes to be made to make school safer. If the districts don’t comply, officials will be called to a public hearing to understand why. If districts are still not compliant with recommendations from the TSSC, then the Texas Education Agency can appoint of state officials to manage the security for the school.

Also in Senate Bill 11 is $100 million in dedicated funding for mental health services, including the creation of a mental health consortium through the 13 health-related institutions of higher education.

The same bill also offers $100 million for schools to add school security infrastructures such as exterior doors with push bars, metal detectors, vehicle barriers, security systems that record points of entry and hallways, active shooter alarm systems, two-way radio systems, perimeter fencing, bullet-resistant glass, and door locking systems.

House Bill 3316 by Rep. James White, R-Hillster, will also encourage school districts to create Crime Stopper programs on school campuses.

Under Senate Bill 2432 by Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, a student will be removed from a classroom and put into disciplinary alternative education program if they threaten harm against a teacher or school staff.

Since June 2018, when the Department of Public Safety launched the iWatch Texas mobile app, there have been 8,879 reports of a suspicious activity or possible criminal, terroristic, or school safety-related threats.

According to the report, since May 2018, the number of school marshals — certified armed school staff — rose 325%.

“While we made important progress this session on these bills and others outlined in this report, more work is needed to create a school culture that builds character and fellowship through parental engagement and community involvement,” wrote Abbott. “Our state must continue to engage in efforts to keep Texas schools safer from bullying, disrespect of teachers, fighting, substance abuse, and gangs, among many other things.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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