Posted Date: 05/14/2021
This is the 2nd of a series of articles discussing the public education bills passed or pending from the 86th legislative session that ended in May. Did you know that there were 8 bills that have either been sent to or already signed by the governor specifically dealing with school safety? Four House Bills (1143, 2195, 3316, and 4342) have been sent but have yet to be signed by Governor Abbot. These bills deal with firearms in school parking lots, active shooter emergency policies, cooperating with crime stoppers organizations, and the development of school safety centers. It is anticipated that the governor will indeed sign these bills into law soon. However, unless he vetoes them outright, they will automatically become law after June 16th. Gov. Abbot has already signed HB 1387 increasing the number of school marshals a district can have as well as SB 1707 and SB 2135. These two bills deal with the duties of school resource officers and other security personnel and guidelines for conducting threat assessments in public schools.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus on one bill that impacts public school safety in more comprehensive terms, SB11. Already signed by Gov. Abbott, SB11 is an omnibus bill that deals with general school safety and mental health. This bill calls for the addition of mental health and suicide prevention to the current health curriculum. It increases the requirements for educating students on digital citizenship and the consequences of cyberbullying. Additionally, SB11 requires the Texas School Safety Center to develop and distribute a list of school safety best practices including facility and building standards that ensure a secure and safe environment for students in both public and charter schools. The Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, has been charged with providing guidance to districts on evaluating the status of school districts with regard to safety and security as well. The bill also deals with the training requirements of school resource officers and expands the role of the existing School Health Advisory Council (SHAC).
SB11 includes the creation of an annual school safety allotment to be used to improve school safety and security, including securing school facilities, providing security for the district, and school safety and security training and planning. This includes active shooter and emergency response training, prevention and treatment programs for childhood trauma, management of emergencies and threats through mental health support and threat reporting systems, and programs for suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. Districts can use funding from the school safety allotment only for the specified purposes of the allotment. (According to TCTA Bill Summary). The amount of safety and security allotment for these bills started at around $50 per student early in the session but ended with a number of around $9 a student ($100 million for the entire state over the next biennium). At the time this article was written, Pampa ISD had not received information regarding the amount of the safety allotment.
I am proud to say that Pampa ISD already has many of these new requirements in place. Stuart Smith and his safety and security team have been diligent in working with the Texas School Safety Center for the past three years. PISD has a wonderful working relationship with local EMS and law enforcement. Leaders from these organizations and the ISD collaborate regularly to conduct threat assessments, run mock drills, and evaluate the security and safety of all of our campuses in the PISD. As more guidance is released from the Commissioner of TEA and the Texas School Safety Center, we will begin to implement the improvements, training, and education pieces in our district and on our campuses. If you have any questions or want to help, please feel free to contact us at 669-4700 or visit our website www.pampaisd.net at the safety and security department link.
Tanya Larkin, Superintendent
Published on 06/13/2019