AUSTIN – Texas House Speaker Joe Straus further instructed House committees Friday to study several issues related to school security and firearm safety.
The new committee charges continue the Texas House's response to the tragic shooting at Santa Fe High School last month. After Speaker Straus and other members of the House participated in Governor Greg Abbott's roundtables on school safety, Speaker Straus on Wednesday asked the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence to study a "red flag" law that would provide a legal process for temporarily removing guns from someone considered potentially dangerous by family members or law enforcement.
In addition, last October, Speaker Straus issued the following charge to the House Committee on Public Health:
"Study and make recommendations to improve services available for identifying and treating children with mental illness, including the application of trauma- and grief-informed practices. Identify strategies to assist in understanding the impact and recognizing the signs of trauma in children and providing school-based or community-based mental health services to children who need them. Analyze the role of the Texas Education Agency and of the regional Education Service Centers regarding mental health. In addition, review programs that treat early psychosis among youth and young adults."
The Committee on Public Health held a hearing on that charge on May 17.
On Friday, Speaker Straus gave House committees nine additional charges. Among other issues, the charges focus on improving mental health services for students, making school campuses safer and improving firearm safety. Many of the charges reflect ideas recommended by Governor Abbott earlier this week.
"The Texas House will be prepared to act promptly and decisively to improve school safety," Speaker Straus said. "These charges reflect the input of educators, behavioral health experts, law enforcement and others. I strongly encourage House committees to give these charges significant attention before the start of the next school year. In fact, I hope that these hearings will produce some ideas that can be implemented immediately and others that can be considered when the Legislature meets again."
Speaker Straus continued, "The House will work closely with educators, parents and state agencies over the next couple of months to ensure that immediate steps are taken to improve school safety before students return to campus in August. Also, I strongly encourage Members to suggest their own ideas for discussion and to share solutions that they have heard from their constituents."
In addition to the charges given by the Speaker, House committee chairs have the discretion to hold a committee hearing or conduct a study of any topic.
Speaker Straus released the following charges Friday:
Committee on Appropriations
"Examine the availability of federal funding and Governor's Criminal Justice grants that may directly or indirectly improve school safety. Evaluate the potential costs of proposals identified by the Governor and House Committees related to improving access to mental health services for children, improved school safety, and enhanced firearm safety."
Committee on Public Education
"Review the effectiveness of schools' current multi-hazard emergency operation plans. Determine any areas of deficiency and make recommendations to ensure student safety. Research violence prevention strategies, such as threat assessment, that are available for school personnel to identify students who might pose a threat to themselves or others. Identify resources and training available to schools to help them develop intervention plans that address the underlying problems that caused the threatening behavior."
"Examine current school facilities and grounds. Consider any research-based 'best practices' when designing a school to provide a more secure environment. Review the effectiveness of installing metal detectors, cameras, safety locks, streaming video of school security cameras, and other measures designed to improve school safety."
Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence
"Examine current statutes designed to protect minors from accessing firearms without proper supervision and make recommendations to ensure responsible and safe firearm storage, including enhancing the penalty to a felony when unauthorized access results in death or bodily injury."
Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety
"Evaluate options to increase the number of school marshals available, and identify current statutory requirements that limit utilization of the program."
"Examine best practices and measures adopted in other states regarding reporting lost or stolen firearms. Gather information on reporting strategies, fines, and/or penalties for noncompliance, and receive testimony from law enforcement related to mishandling of firearms."
Committees on Public Education and Committee on Public Health (Joint Charge)
"Consider testimony provided at the May 17 House Public Health Committee hearing regarding improving mental health services for children. Identify specific strategies that would enhance overall school safety. Study ways to help parents, youth and primary care providers support school personnel in their efforts to identify and intervene early when mental health problems arise. In addition to school-based trauma-informed programs and those that treat early psychosis, consider the benefits of universal screening tools and expanding the Child Psychiatry Access Program (CPAP). Make recommendations to enhance collaboration among the Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Education Agency, local mental health authorities, and education service centers."
Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety and Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence (Joint Charge)
"Examine current judicial procedures and practices and make recommendations to assist all courts and jurisdictions in reporting judgments and verdicts which make up the information sent to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS). Review and make recommendations regarding the list of convictions, judgments, and judicial orders which disqualify a person from possessing a firearm."
Committee on Defense & Veterans Affairs and Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety (Joint Charge)
"Examine the experience of other states in prioritizing retired peace officers and military veterans for school security. Determine the minimum standards necessary to implement such a program."