DALLAS — Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Gov. Abbott revealed the same plan in Dallas and San Marcos.
DALLAS, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled his proposed school safety plan Wednesday morning in Dallas, less than two weeks after the Santa Fe shooting.
This comes after his series of roundtable discussions that included input from victims, students, faculty members and health and safety experts.
During the press conference, Abbott shared how having everyone's input was important to this process.
"This is the type of process that requires everybody to be involved because everybody in this entire process, and everybody in the state of Texas never wants to see another occasion where innocent children are gunned down in their own schools," said Abbott.
In his recommendations, Abbott suggests more law enforcement and trained armed staff, known as school marshals on campus.
"The difference between life and death can be a matter of seconds. Trained security personnel can make all the difference in the world,” said Abbott.
Abbott is also recommending expanded mental health services in schools: more counselors and mental health screenings to identify which students could be a threat to others.
"As long as mental health challenges trouble our children, there will never be enough safety barriers that we can build to protect our students,” said Abbott.
Abbott also said it's important for gun owners to let authorities know if their gun is lost or stolen.
"Reporting stolen firearms makes it easier for law enforcement to be able to identify fire arms that are possessed by criminals,” said Abbbott.
Hays County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Jeri Skrocki spoke at the governor's round table last week. She shared their plan of collaborating with schools, saying communication is key.
"We want to do all we can to protect our kids and our educators,” Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said.
Cutler said they help prepare students and teachers at 64 schools for dangerous situations like a tornado, gas leak, or active shooter.
"You would be surprised how these kids respond to this. How they you might think they'd be cutting up and talking. They respond very well, and that's what we want,” said Cutler.
Now authorities will help train others throughout the state.
"When that parent stood up and said if this could happen in Santa Fe, Texas, this could happen anywhere that rang through my head. That's a heavy comment to make, when he stood there and said that,” said Cutler. “Santa Fe, Texas... who would have thought Santa Fe Texas, who would have thought any other community throughout Texas. You know you hear about it in other areas of the United States. You know so we want to do our share, if we can teach, share this program, Amarillo, Texas to Laredo, Texas, we want to do that."
Many wonder how schools will pay for these new ideas.
Governor Abbott said there is more than $110 million in funding available through state and federal grants, but added the legislature would likely have to appropriate money.
"I'm not worried about the cost, between the federal grant, between the money we can allocate we can address that, cost will not be an issue,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
While many wonder if Abbott will call a special session, he told reporters Wednesday that he’s open to the idea if there are laws that can be passed. Abbott said a special session is “not a debating society.”
Both Patrick and Speaker of the House Joe Straus both said they have designated committees to study different aspects of school safety.
Patrick told KVUE he plans for this issue to be Senate Bill 1 when the legislature goes back in session in January 2019.
You can read the full recommendations here:
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.
In light of Gov. Abbott’s recommendations, the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) released this statement:
“The governor’s recommendations come at a time when safety is of the utmost importance to Texas schools. ATPE applauds the conversations that were had about finding novel approaches to strengthening safety measures in Texas schools, even as we were not included in them.
ATPE has long advocated that school districts should decide what is important for their own peace of mind and communities, and we hope that the wishes of local school districts and their communities are respected during this process. We are pleased that the governor appears to be focusing on identifying and providing resources, including mental health interventions, rather than imposing mandates in dealing with this critical issue.
As the governor’s proposals are implemented across Texas or put up to a vote in the next legislative session, adequate funding must accompany them. This will require our legislature and state leaders to take a comprehensive look at our school funding needs, which already have been inadequately addressed. The governor’s new proposals will require, for instance, the hiring of additional staff and other interventions that will only increase the price tag of safely and effectively operating our public school system. We hope that educators will have a seat at the table for those weighty discussions, and we look forward to continuing to advocate for the well-being of all Texas students and school employees.”