Texas' Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security closed up shop Monday. Its final report follows the lead of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott by urging more guns in the state's schools and better mental health services for students who might become shooters. It shies away from recommending any concrete measures that might limit access to guns.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick formed the committee this spring following the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School on May 18. Over four meetings this summer, the committee heard from experts about how Texas could "harden" its schools by making them less accessible to shooters and arming more school employees, including teachers. Advocates also pushed the committee for better access to mental health resources for students and so-called "red flag" laws, which limit the availability of guns to high-risk individuals.
The senators' report proposes state funding for metal detectors in the state's public schools, as well as "alarm systems, cameras and hardened entrances." The committee also recommends that the state re-evaluate its building codes to make sure that schools are as fortress-like as the state wants them to be.
"In addition to the immediate steps that I have presented to school superintendents to help enhance the security of school entrances and exits, this report will help us develop legislation for a comprehensive school security effort to meet the increased challenges we face today," Patrick said. "School security will be a top priority for me in the upcoming legislative session. My goal is for every parent to know their child is safe in their school and for no child to feel afraid."
In addition to structural upgrades, the committee also believes the Legislature should consider increased funding for Texas' school marshal program, which provides training for school employees who want to carry guns on school grounds, and for improved mental health services.
The state should, according to the committee, re-evaluate zero tolerance policies and their sometimes unintended outcomes, "consider expanding the use of telemedicine and telepsychiatry to help children in crisis
obtain access to mental health services before violence occurs" and "consider legislation to strengthen the state's mental health system by leveraging the expertise of state medical schools by creating psychiatry hubs that connect pediatricians seeking consultation with experts in mental health," according to the report.
The Texas State Teachers Association, Texas' largest, welcomed the potential for increased school security.
"The Texas State Teachers Association agrees with proposed steps to strengthen school security infrastructure and procedures and to improve mental health services for students. But who is going to pay for them?" said Noel Candelaria, president of the association. "School districts need more state funding to effectively carry out these recommendations, and so far the state refuses to even pay its fair share of basic educational services."
Candelaria also criticized the committee for its failure to recommend red flag laws, something Abbott mentioned as a possibility earlier this year.
"We are disappointed that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick remains opposed to a common-sense 'red flag' law that would make it easier to remove guns from the hands of people who clearly pose a danger to themselves and others," he said. "We believe this law can be enacted in such a way to help protect students, school employees and other Texans while also preserving the Second Amendment rights of firearm owners."
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