Happy Monday, Dawg Readers! This is Christine again and to start off this week, we’re going to revisit a couple of items. First, school safety. You may have heard that this issue has caught Governor Greg Abbott’s attention and he has acted, issuing a “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan” just last week. His plan covers a lot of ground, from immediate steps being taken by the State to suggested legislative priorities for 2019. Here are some of the highlights:
- Increased law enforcement presence on school campuses. The plan includes recommendations to increase police presence on school campuses by allowing use of school facilities for breaks, lunch or office functions. The plan also recommends creating a pathway for veterans to help protect schools through a modified marshal program.
- Modifications to the school marshal program. Governor Abbott suggests several potential legislative fixes to the existing law, with the goal of increasing the number of school marshals throughout Texas. In the short-term, the plan also provides for grant funding for the cost of training from June through August of 2018.
- “Hardening” of Campus Facilities. Noting that our schools are “soft targets,” the plan includes some interesting data and offers suggestions of structural improvements schools can make, pointing readers to the Texas School Safety Center for more information. In addition, Governor Abbott commits to “prioritize $62.1 million in new federal funding toward immediate school safety improvements.” These funds are expected to come from the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program (SSAE).
- Mental Health Resources. The plan suggests that the existing Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage and Referral (TWITR) Project should be expanded by additional funding commitments from the Governor’s Office and the Legislature. Per Governor Abbott’s plan, the TWITR project is essentially a model to help schools identify and intervene with students who pose a risk to themselves or others, or whose mental health conditions have led to behavioral problems. The plan also seeks to improve access to Mental Health First Aid training and Behavior Threat Assessment training.
- iWatch Texas App. Orwellian sounding name notwithstanding, the Governor’s plan calls for the expansion of this existing DPS app feature into a standalone app. Doing so is expected to provide a more efficient mechanism for safety threats to be reported across communities, linked, and accessed by law enforcement and public safety authorities.
- Student Discipline Changes. More legislative changes are recommended to expand upon the existing Chapter 37 offenses punishable by DAEP placement or expulsion, with a particular emphasis on assaults and violence on teachers and school staff. With regard to restorative discipline, the plan also includes lots of “should” language about how DAEP programs ought to be improved.
- Enhancing Firearms Safety. The Governor takes a strong Second Amendment stance, tooting his own horn on his various legal battles in service to the constitutional right to bear arms. However, the plan does go on to note that [p]roposals discussed at the roundtables convened by Governor Abbott include the following action items to lessen the illegal and irresponsible use of firearms:
- Closing gaps in information reporting for background checks by creating a case management system for Texas judges.
- Encouraging the legislature to study the possibility of creating a ‘red flag’ law to identify persons who are a danger to themselves or others and who either have access to or own firearms.
- Work to make sure that adjudications affecting the right to legally purchase and possess firearms are reported within 48 hours. This 48-hour requirement should also extend to protective orders and family violence convictions.
- Strengthening the Safe Firearm Storage Law.
- Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns.
Be on the lookout this Friday, June 8th for guidance from TEA on possible grant funding for school marshal training. In the meantime, check out Governor Abbott’s full plan online:
DAWG BONE: YOU NEED TO READ THIS BECAUSE THERE IS BOUND TO BE SOMETHING THAT WILL IMPACT YOUR SCHOOL.
Tomorrow: We’re Back on RBG and Single Sex Education.