AUSTIN, Texas — State Representative James Talarico (D-Round Rock), a former middle school teacher, has filed his first bill.
HB 1467 will create a ratio of mental health professionals to law enforcement officials in Texas public schools.
The bill intends to help school districts prioritize a "cost-effective, research-based approach to school safety by balancing mental healthcare and campus policing," according to Rep. Talarico's office.
It will require a 4:1 ratio of mental health professionals to law enforcement officials in school districts with more than 5,000 students. The ratio will be lower for smaller districts.
"Our first bill will ensure that when our students walk through their campuses, they see more counselors than cops," Rep. Talarico said. "Every expert -- from the Department of Education to the Secret Service -- agrees that creating positive, healthy school climates is a far more effective campus strategy than militarizing our schools."
According to Rep. Talarico's office, Texas is overdue for better mental health resources in schools. The office said the National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one school psychologist per 500 to 700 students -- but Texas currently has a ratio of one to 2,792 students.
This bill is the first piece of Rep. Talarico's larger legislative package focused on creating safe and healthy schools, according to his office. Later bills will focus on behavior systems, restorative justice and suicide prevention.