Austin, TX - The Texas House Committee on Public Education released its preliminary report on school safety Tuesday, recommending a number of improvements to school mental health services and campus safety infrastructure.
In response to the tragic shooting at Santa Fe High School earlier this year, Speaker Joe Straus charged several House committees with studying issues related to school safety. The House Committee on Public Education was issued three charges on topics ranging from student mental health to emergency operations planning to facility design.
The committee considered these charges at a series of hearings over the summer. Much of the testimony agreed on the need to emphasize violence prevention and early threat identification over campus hardening.
"As we look for ways to improve school safety, we need to find a balance between making campuses safe but also healthy learning environments," said House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty. "Our students deserve to have schools where they feel safe but not imprisoned. The state can assist these efforts by providing resources for more school counselors and increased student access to mental health services, in addition to campus safety improvements and increased law enforcement or school marshals."
Chairman Huberty added, "In the long run, we are better off spending resources on trying to prevent such tragedies rather than just being prepared for the next one to happen."
The report from the Public Education Committee recommends that the Legislature provide funding for several initiatives to improve school safety, such as:
• Increasing the number of counselors, psychologists and social workers available to students;
• Increasing the amount of training received by school personnel, including threat
assessment, Mental Health First Aid and training related to emergency operations;
• Studying communication interoperability among schools, law enforcement and first
• Improving the integration of mental health services and student access to these
services, especially in underserved areas.
The committee also recommends various statutory changes related to school safety, such as the inclusion of mental health and character education in state curriculum guidelines and the expansion of certain existing requirements to include charter schools.
The committee held hours of hearings before issuing its recommendations. In addition to hearing public testimony, the committee also heard from a wide variety of experts in the fields of education, law enforcement, emergency planning, building design, security technology, and mental health.
"The House Public Education Committee listened closely to experts on the front lines of education and behavioral health and has provided some very useful recommendations," Speaker Straus said. "Along with the issues that other House committees have been studying, this is a critical part of how the next Legislature can make our schools and our entire state more safe. It will be important for the next Legislature to carefully consider these recommendations and make needed investments in student safety."
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