Governor Abbott releases report highlighting progress on school safety initiatives in Texas
AUSTIN, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott today released the Texas School Safety Update report highlighting the progress made to keep students and teachers safe at school. The report provides an update on efforts by the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, and state agencies to implement recommendations made in the School Safety Action Plan released on May 30, 2018 and the subsequent update in August 2018.
“Because the safety of our students in Texas classrooms today is a top priority, I made school safety an emergency item in the 86th Legislative Session — and state leaders took substantial steps to deliver on this priority,” said Governor Abbott. “I am grateful for the bi-partisan efforts of legislators that led to significant improvements in enhancing the safety of Texas schools, expanding students’ access to mental health resources, and increasing support for teachers facing classroom challenges. As we look to the possibilities that a new school year may bring, school administrators, parents, teachers, and lawmakers must continue the conversation on school safety and continue to make the effort to keep our students safe in an affirming environment that strives for excellence and growth.”
A summary of the report can be found below.
Preventing Threats In Advance
The Mental Health First Aid program experienced a 37% increase in the number of public school district employees and school resource officers trained in fiscal year (FY) 2018 compared to FY 2017, and over 10,000 school personnel were trained in FY 2019.
Since August 2018, the Texas State School Safety Center (TxSSC) has held seven threat assessment workshops with 425 participants, and will host seven more workshops this August.
The 2020-21 state budget provides $5 million to Texas Tech Health Sciences Center for the Telemedicine Intervention Triage and Referral (TWITR) Project, a model for identifying students at risk for committing school violence and intervening with those students before acts of violence occur.
Senate Bill 11 provides districts with $100 million in funding for school based mental health centers, the hiring of counselors, and other mental health needs, and provides $99 million in funding for the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium.
Seven federally funded fusion centers have been established in Texas, which coordinate with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to identify, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist acts.
Since the inception of the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) iWatch Texas App, there have been over 8,879 downloads. This app is a tool for citizens to report suspicious activities or behaviors that may indicate criminal, terroristic, or school safety-related threats.
Making Schools Safer and Agency Response
There are 162 in Texas schools providing office space to DPS officers, and 265 DPS troopers are stationed in Texas schools.
Texas increased the number of school marshals by 325% in the last year, and House Bill 1374 removed the restriction on the number of school marshals that can be appointed per campus.
Under Senate Bill 11, school districts have access to $100 million for infrastructure improvements over the next biennium, including but not limited to campus-wide active shooter alarm systems, vehicle barriers, and metal detectors at school entrances.
Since June 2018, TxSSC has delivered 17 workshops to over 600 participants on school safety planning. Additionally, 603 school employees have received Standard Response Protocol and Standard Reunification Method training, and 156 Texas high school students have been trained in emergency response and preparedness.
Senate Bill 11 requires school districts that receive a bomb threat or terroristic threat to notify parents, and requires a district’s emergency plan to include immediate notification of parents when a threat occurs.
TxSSC has worked with the Texas Commission On Law Enforcement to provide over seven different kinds of safety training to 4,321 people since May 2018.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been awarded $2 million in federal grants for schools to implement threat assessment and mental health training programs.
A list of additional school safety laws passed during the 86th Legislative Session can be found on page 22 of the report.
The passage of House Bill 1, Senate Bill 11, and Senate Bill 500 have led to nearly $339 million in school safety funding for various agencies and entities, including HHSC, TEA, Texas State University, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. A breakdown of funding can be found on page 23 of the report.
Additionally, the Department of Public Safety has released a detailed breakdown of their statewide school safety initiative actions over the past year. Highlights of the document include:
DPS has made over 10,000 school visits since June 2018.
91% of DPS commissioned personnel have been trained in active shooter response.
56% of DPS commissioned personnel have completed Tactical Emergency Casualty Care training, which has provided skills and equipment utilized to save the lives of no less than 15 people in 2019.
The information in this article was sent in a press release from the Press Office of Governor Greg Abbott.
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