On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed three pieces of legislation into law, all designed to increase safety in public schools.
Abbott signed Senate Bill 11, authored by State Sen. Larry Taylor, as well as House Bill 18 and House Bill 1387.
SB 11 is a landmark bill that will in part assist school districts in hardening their infrastructure, identifying and addressing the mental health needs of their students, and developing plans to handle emergencies or threats on campus. SB 11 offers a grant for one-time school hardening and creates a school safety financial allotment for schools to address ongoing safety expenses.
Santa Fe ISD Superintendent Leigh Wall and School Board President Rusty Norman attended the signing ceremony in Austin.
Both Wall and Norman testified in front of the House and Senate throughout the legislative session, lobbying for all Texas schools to receive funding for crucial resources, training and infrastructure enhancements.
“We are grateful that Gov. Abbott and our state Legislature understand the need for all schools to receive funding for safety and security and mental health resources,” Wall said. “Sen. Larry Taylor and Rep. Greg Bonnen, who both represent Santa Fe, were instrumental in ensuring this legislation would enable our district to sustain the safety and mental health enhancements we have made over this past year.”
The emphasis on school safety during the legislative session came after a student gunman opened fire in May 2018, killing 10 and injuring 13 at Santa Fe High School.
Since that time, Santa Fe ISD has made many safety improvements on all of its campuses while greatly increasing mental health resources like school counselors.
Norman said the additional funding provided by the Legislature will allow Santa Fe ISD to keep its enhanced security programs in place without burdening local taxpayers.
“We have invested more than $3 million to enhance safety, training and mental health resources across our district over the past year,” Norman said. “The signing of these bills into law allows us to keep supporting these efforts and evaluate new programs, trainings and resources we can implement as part of our continuous improvement strategy.”
The three bills – Senate Bill 11, House Bill 18 and House Bill 1387 – will provide Texas schools with $110 million of additional funding for mental health and school safety over the next two years. SB 11 will provide each school with $10 per student funding to be used toward improving infrastructure of school campuses to make them safer, employing school resource officers or training school marshals and enhancing active shooter training. SB 11 also includes provisions for strengthening emergency preparedness and response protocols and establishing enhanced threat assessment team protocols.
House Bill 18 will increase mental health training for school staff, provide enhanced resources for school districts to help students engaged in substance abuse and introduces mental health coursework, teaching students skills to manage emotions and maintain positive relationships while enabling them to help identify mental health issues. House Bill 1387 removes the cap on the number of school marshals permissible on each campus under the Marshal Program.
Taylor and Bonnen joined Abbott at the signing ceremony Thursday.