While the state has made improvements in the area of school safety, Texas could still do more to head off campus threats before they arise, Gov. Greg Abbott wrote in a report released Tuesday.
In the report, Abbott pointed to new school safety legislation, teacher training and campus security upgrades as steps that will help keep students safer at school. But he called on school administrators, teachers, parents and lawmakers to continue to look for ways to improve safety.
"The changes that we must make go beyond the four corners of this report, and my office stands ready to further engage on these issues over the interim and 87th Legislative Session," Abbott wrote.
Titled "Improving School Safety in Texas," the report is an update on the state's progress on recommendations made in the School Safety Action Plan, which Abbott released in May 2018. The action plan came in the wake of a shooting at Santa Fe High School that left eight students and two teachers dead and 13 others wounded.
Among other steps, the action plan encouraged school boards and communities to discuss ways to step up security on their campuses and called for more school marshals and better security training for teachers. During his biennial State of the State address in February, Abbott declared school safety improvements an emergency priority, a designation that allowed state lawmakers to move quickly to send bills related to school safety to Abbott's desk.
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In Tuesday's report, Abbott highlights strides in school safety the state has made since the Santa Fe shooting. Perhaps most prominent among those is the passage of Senate Bill 11, which provides $100 million in formula funding that school districts may use for mental health needs, including school-based mental health centers and counselors. The bill also established the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, which brings together mental health experts at the state's medical schools to improve access to mental health care for children.
The bill also requires school districts to designate a team on each campus to evaluate risks and threats and come up with ways to intervene.
The report also points to House Bill 1374, which lifted limits on the number of school marshals allowed in each district, as a factor that contributed to a 325% increase in the number of school marshals statewide over the past year. It also notes that some districts have stepped up their partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, allowing them to take lunch breaks or file reports from schools or, in some cases, providing local or state law enforcement agencies with office space in order to increase police presence on campus.
Although lawmakers made a raft of changes designed to improve school safety during the last legislative session, some of those policies will take time to implement. Last month, The Dallas Morning News reported that deadlines for state agencies to implement some policies could be pushed into the 2020-21 school year or beyond.