Texas House advances school security bill after shooting
May 29, 2019 By The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas lawmakers are gearing up to pass new measures aimed at increasing campus security, adding more armed personnel and boosting student mental health resources a year after a mass shooting at a high school near Houston killed eight students and two substitute teachers.
The move marks the first major action by state lawmakers since the May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School.
The Texas House on Tuesday gave tentative approval to a Senate measure that calls for schools to undertake several new safety protocols, including allocating funds for enhanced security, developing campus emergency plans to be filed with the state, and engaging in active shooter and emergency response trainings.
The changes being proposed feature measures proposed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shortly after the shooting. The legislation doesn’t include restricting gun sales or access to weapons, as GOP leaders have long pledged to protect gun rights.
Abbott had also proposed tighter gun storage laws following the shooting before going silent on the idea amid swift rebuke from gun-rights advocates.
The bill that passed the House with bipartisan support — on a 128-14 vote — also looks to get more mental health counsellors in schools and create “threat assessment teams” that would help identify potentially dangerous students before they act.
Republican Rep. Greg Bonnen said the legislation was inspired by the students, faculty and staff at Santa Fe.
The chamber took up the measure before the Senate considered another bill that would expand the school marshal program, which trains teachers and other school personnel to carry weapons and let them keep their weapons on them at all times, instead of locking them in a safe away from students.
That effort has faced more opposition and tentatively passed the Senate on a 20-11 vote.
Teachers groups and gun control activists worry that more guns in classrooms, even concealed weapons, will lead to potentially lethal accidents.
“If we put an unlimited number of guns in our schools, we’re only creating an unlimited number of potential mistakes that could harm our children,” said Hilary Whitfield, a volunteer leader of the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, in a statement.
The bill would eliminate a provision that limit marshals to one per 200 students or one per building.
GOP Sen. Brandon Creighton said the measure would “allow school districts to decide themselves what works best for them in order to keep their students safe.”
– Clarice Silber
News from © The Associated Press Enterprises Inc., 2019
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