Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law several bills related to enhancing school safety measures and expanding access to mental health training and resources on Thursday.
Shortly after the school shooting at Santa Fe High School in May 2018, Abbott conducted a series of roundtable discusses to gain input from legislators, educators, law enforcement, advocates, parents and students to find solutions to ensure the safety and security of students while they’re in school.
He unveiled his School and Firearm Safety Action Plan, which contained about 40 recommendations and included proposals that call for increasing law enforcement presence at schools, strengthening existing campus security programs, enhancing firearm security, providing mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others and much more. He also named school safety an emergency item for this past legislative session.
“After the horrific shooting in Santa Fe and the subsequent school safety roundtables, I made school safety an emergency item to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening again,” Abbott said in a press release. “Today, I am proud to sign legislation to make Texas schools safer for students and teachers. I thank members from both chambers, as well as the many stakeholders, who worked tirelessly to get these bills through the Legislature and to my desk today.”
Senate Bill 11 strengthens emergency preparedness and response protocols, improves school facilities standards, establishes better threat assessment protocols and provides schools more funding for school safety efforts, according to the release.
The bill also establishes the Texas Child Mental Health Consortium to leverage higher education expertise in the state to improve the mental health care systems for Texas children.
House Bill 18 increases mental health training for educators and other school professionals to aid in early identification and intervention, emphasizes importance of mental health education for students and improves access to mental health and behavior health services through school-based mental health centers and the hiring of mental health professionals, according to the release.
House Bill 1387 removes the cap on the number of school marshals that may be appointed per campus, according to the release.
State Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, said he thought the legislature took the right approach when it comes to addressing school safety and mental health awareness.
“I know our focus was on equipping local districts to handle threats,” Burns said. “I think the mental health approach and parental involvement allows us to erase some of the stigmas that surround mental health and allows our faculty to address those issues when the arise. We’re giving them the freedom to do what they see fit at the local level.”
At Cleburne ISD, officials said they have made strides to assure their administrators, teachers and students are trained and safe.
In March, the district held a parent meeting to discuss the different safety and security measures they have conducted. They implemented standardized vocabulary and signage that all administrators and teachers can follow:
• Lockout: Get inside and lock outside doors.
• Lockdown: Locks, lights and out of sight.
• Evacuate: To the announced location.
• Shelter: Hazard and safety strategy.
• Hold: In your classroom and clear the halls.
Each CISD campus now has a secure vestibule at the front entrance of the building where every visitor must be buzzed in and sign in their name in order to be able to be on campus.
In October, the district implemented the Anonymous Alerts system that allows students and parents to anonymously report urgent information to school officials. Parents and students can download the free app to their smartphones or tablet, or an incident report can be placed from an internet connected computer. Reports to campus administrative officials can include a screenshot, photo or a video relating to the incident.
Over the past several months, administrators and teachers have participated in CRASE training — Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events — which is a course that provides strategies, guidance and a proven plan for surviving an active shooter event.
The program is designed and built on the Avoid, Deny and Defend strategy developed by Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training initiative, according to its website. Topics include the history and prevalence of active shooter events, civilian response options, medical issues and considerations for conducting drills.
Middle and high school students will be taught ALICE training — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, which is another set of proactive, options-based strategies that increase your chances of survival during a violent intruder or active shooter event.
Elementary students at CISD will be taught “age-appropriate” strategies such as running and knowing where to run; hiding and how to barricade themselves; and fighting as a last resort by throwing items at the intruder.
For more information about CISD’s safety and security measures, visit c-isd.com and click on “Safety and Security” under the “District Info” tab.