Governor Greg Abbott signed a series of bills into law Thursday, that would, among other things, strengthen mental health initiatives available to children and allot money to school districts that can go toward securing and protecting their campuses. This has been a long and tedious journey, all to prevent another school shooting like the Santa Fe High tragedy.
Senate Bill 11, sweeping school safety measure, instructs school districts: to implement multi-hazard-emergency operation plans; require certain training for school resource officers; will ensure school district employees and substitute teachers, are trained to respond to emergencies; and establishes threat assessment teams to help identify potentially dangerous students and determine the best ways to intervene before they become violent.
After May’s shooting at Santa Fe High, which left 10 dead and another 13 wounded, drafting of the bill began. Before signing the measure Thursday at the Texas Capitol, Abbott said that Senate Bill 11’s passage was made possible through the efforts of House and Senate lawmakers, and fruitful discussions that came out of multiple roundtable discussions he hosted shortly after the Santa Fe High shooting.
Abbott said Thursday that Senate Bill 11, “will do more than Texas has ever done to make schools a safer places for our students, for our educators, for our parents and families.”
Republican State Senator Larry Taylor and State Representative Greg Bonnen, represent the Santa Fe school district and said they were pleased with lawmakers’ headway this session as it relates to school safety and mental health initiatives.
“It is unfortunate that the events such as what happened at Santa Fe occurred, but we are taking action to do everything that we can reasonably do,” Bonnen said.
Aside from State Bill 11, Abbott signed a separate mental health bill Thursday by State Representative Four Price. This mental health bill will increase mental health training for educators and other school professionals and improves students’ access to mental and behavioral health services.
“We are taking a very significant step forward,” Price said. “We are reducing the stigma that is associated with mental illness, and we are equipping our counselors, administrators and educators throughout the state of Texas to identify children in crisis, again – all with parental consent.”
The third bill Abbott signed into law Thursday abolishes the cap on how many trained school teachers and support staff can carry guns on public school campuses.
Scruggs gave a thumbs-up to lawmakers for their progress on school safety bills and said that “overall, things were positive.”
Gun control groups like Scruggs’ were not the only ones to praise Texas’ leadership for their work this session to help try to prevent another mass shooting. Survivors are also grateful that the lawmakers surpassed their expectations on the progress that was done this year to enhance school safety.
“We were really pleased with State Bill 11. The pieces that were personal to me are in there,” said Flo Rice, a former Santa Fe High substitute teacher who was shot in both legs last May. “I’m really pleased. I feel like they worked very hard, they listened to us and the community and made strides to really protect our children.”