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Governor Abbott unveils plan to address school safety in Texas

On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott joined state and local leaders to unveil his School and Firearm Safety Action Plan. The Governor’s plan contains 40 recommendations and includes proposals that call for increasing law enforcement presence at schools, strengthening existing campus security programs, enhancing firearm safety, providing mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others, and much more.

Today’s announcement, which the Governor unveiled in Dallas, TX and San Marcos, TX, follows a series of roundtable discussions held last week during which the Governor spoke to, and received input from, victims, parents, educators, lawmakers, law enforcement and policy experts to help generate solutions that improve safety and security at Texas schools.

“This plan is a starting point, not an ending place,” said Governor Abbott. “It provides strategies that can be used before the next school year begins to keep our students safe when they return to school. This plan will make our schools safer and our communities safer.”

In addition to the actions Governor Abbott is taking today, he will also ask Texas Senate and House leaders to issue an interim charge to consider the merits of adopting a “red flag” law allowing law enforcement, a family member, school employee, or a district attorney to file a petition seeking the removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person, only after legal due process is provided.

The recommendations announced today identify nearly $110 million in total funding, including $70 million that is already or will soon be available to begin this important work. Additionally, the Governor has identified a specific need for $30 million that he will work with the Legislature to fund next session.


IMMEDIATE FUNDING ASSISTANCE TO SANTA FE

Governor’s Criminal Justice Division Grants:

Deploying Crisis Response Counselors To Meet Immediate Mental Health Needs.

Assisting Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Efforts to Provide a Long-Term Behavioral Health Response.

Ensuring First Responders Have Mental Health Resources.

Providing Additional Counselors to ISDs in the Santa Fe Area.

Providing Highly-Trained Counselors to Santa Fe ISD for the Upcoming School Year.

Coordinating Long-Term Community Mental Health Efforts.

 U.S. Department Of Education Grant:

Office of the Governor has worked with the U.S. Department of Education to immediately deliver $1 million to Santa Fe ISD through the School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) program.

MAKING SCHOOLS SAFER

Immediately Increase Law Enforcement Presence At Schools:

Schools should collaborate with local law enforcement to heighten police presence on school campuses.

Prioritize hiring retired peace officers – specifically police, sheriffs, and constables – and military veterans for school security.

Train More School Marshals And Improve The Program:

Increase the number of school marshals by funding training this summer.

Increase the number of school marshals that can be appointed per school.

Remove the firearm storage requirement for school marshals who are in direct contact with students.

Revamp marshal training requirements to focus more time on firearms training.

Require annual refresher courses to maintain school marshal skills.

Provide Active Shooter And Emergency Response Training:

Protect students and teachers by better preparing campus security to respond to active shooters.
The Texas School Safety Center will deliver a workshop-based course that allows for hands-on application of high-quality planning practices.

The Texas School Safety Center will partner with the I Love You Guys Foundation to provide training in the Standard Response Protocol and the Standard Reunification Method for school personnel.

Hardening Of Campus Facilities:

Improve the infrastructure and design of Texas schools to prevent security threats

Prioritize Increased Federal Funding Toward Immediate School Safety Improvements:

TEA will work with school districts to prioritize $62.1 million in new federal funding toward immediate school safety improvements, including school hardening, increased law enforcement patrols, implementation of mental health programs, and other recommendations discussed in this plan.

Strengthen Existing Campus Security Programs:

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) should review school districts’ and charter schools’ school safety and security audits.

Specifically require certain members of the community to serve on an ISD or charter school’s safety and security committee.

The School Safety and Security Committee should be required to discuss with local law enforcement the expansion of patrol zones to include the school district.

The School Safety and Security Committee should hold meetings at least three times per year.
School Safety and Security Committees should periodically provide updates to the school board.

Schools should be required to notify parents if a significant threat to students’ safety occurs.

PREVENTING THREATS IN ADVANCE

Provide Mental Health Evaluations That Identify Students At Risk Of Harming Others And Provide Them The Help They Need:

To enhance school safety and ensure additional behavioral health services are available to students on-campus, expand access to Texas Tech Health Sciences Center’s Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project.

Increase Mental Health First Aid Training:

Increase Mental Health First Aid training during summer 2018

Provide Schools with Behavioral Threat Assessment Programs:

The Texas School Safety Center will partner with SIGMA Threat Management to deliver training on Behavioral Threat Assessment to school personnel.

Better Utilize And Expand On-Campus Counseling Resources:

Prioritize the importance of the mental and behavioral health needs of students by freeing up counselors to focus on those needs, encourage school district’s to add more counselors at the campus level, and appropriate funds to fill in gaps.

 Expand Campus Crime Stoppers Programs:

Expand Crime Stoppers operations and launch an awareness campaign for school employees and students to encourage the reporting of tips related to school crime.

Use Digital Technology to Prevent Attacks:

Increase the use and awareness of DPS’ “iWatch Texas” reporting system to enable and encourage parents, students, and teachers to easily report potential harm or criminal activity directed at school students, school employees, and schools.

Deploy More Fusion Centers To Monitor Social Media For Threats:

Increase the number of fusion centers in Texas to improve law enforcement’s ability to identify, process, and resolve potential threats that appear on social media.

Improve Mental Health Crisis Response Infrastructure:

To better respond to the needs of students and school faculty in the aftermath of a crisis, expand the Texas Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Network to improve outcomes.

Increase The Safety Of Charter Schools:

Include charter schools in the same school safety requirements as Independent School Districts.
Allowing charter schools to access similar safety options as Independent School Districts.

Remove From The Classroom Students Who Threaten Teachers:

Protect school employees by implementing a zero-tolerance policy for students who commit assault.
To improve the learning environment by making campuses safer, expand the list of offenses for which a student may be expelled or placed in a disciplinary alternative educational program.

When a student is placed in a DAEP classroom, the school district should implement a cycle of restorative practices designed to address the underlying mental or behavioral health issues, including screenings from the TWITR project or similar programs.

ENHANCING FIREARMS SAFETY

Close Critical Information Gaps To Help Prevent Shootings Like That In Sutherland Springs:

Create a statewide case management system to provide magistrates immediate access to critical information and to speed the timely reporting of court records for federal background checks.

Study A Protective Order Law To Keep Guns Out Of The Hands Of Those Mentally Unfit To Bear Arms, But Only After Legal Due Process Is Allowed To Ensure Second Amendment Rights Are Not Violated:

Encourage the Texas Senate and House leaders to issue an interim charge to consider the merits of adopting a red flag law allowing law enforcement, a family member, school employee, or a district attorney to file a petition seeking the removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person only after legal due process is provided.

Mandate A 48-Hour Reporting Period To Close Gaps In Federally Mandated Background Checks:

Adjudications affecting the right to legally purchase and possess firearms should be reported within 48 hours. This 48-hour requirement should also extend to protective orders and family violence convictions. Courts should ensure that all disqualifying felony convictions are entered as soon as possible.

Strengthening The Safe Firearm Storage Law:

To help ensure firearm safety, make modifications to the Texas gun storage law.

Promote Awareness Of Safe Storage Practices:

Promote voluntary use of gun locks.

Increase notification and awareness of the law.

Mandatory Reporting Of Lost Or Stolen Guns:

To aid law enforcement, require that gun owners report when their firearms are lost or stolen within 10 days.

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