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House committee discusses school safety bills

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Texas Legislature School Safety

Date Posted: 3/28/2023 | Author: Mark Wiggins

The House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety heard several bills Monday, March 27, 2023, intended to address school shootings in the wake of the murder of 19 children and two teachers by a teenage gunman armed with an assault-style rifle at an elementary school in Uvalde. The hearing took place the same day as another shooting at a private school in Nashville, Tennessee, in which three children and three adults were killed.

House Bill (HB) 3 by Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) would require each public school campus to employ an armed security guard, which could be a police officer, a school resource officer, a commissioned security officer, a school marshal, or an armed employee who has received specific training.

ATPE submitted neutral testimony recommending that the bill clarify that a school employee may not be required to serve as an armed security guard in order to satisfy the bill’s requirements.

The bill would also increase Texas Education Agency (TEA) oversight of school district implementation and operation of multihazard operations plans, safety and security audits, and other safety and security requirements.

HB 3 would allow the agency to establish an office of school safety and security and provide technical assistance to school districts. The bill would also allow the commissioner to take over school districts that do not comply with school safety requirements. None of the bill’s provisions would apply to private schools.

HB 13 by Rep. Ken King (R–Canadian) would require each district employee who regularly interacts with students to complete an evidence-based mental health first aid training program on recognizing and supporting children and youth who experience a mental health or substance use issue that may pose a threat to school safety.

ATPE submitted neutral testimony pointing out the ever-growing burden of mandatory training. ATPE urged legislators to provide educators with a stipend for any additional training and allow schools more flexibility with regard to the training vendor.

Other provisions of HB 13 include training and stipends for school guardians, who are school employees authorized by a school district to possess a specified weapon for providing school safety. The bill would also require each district to adopt and implement an active shooter preparedness plan and order the Texas School Safety Center to establish a directory of approved school safety vendors.

King also presented HB 4406, which would allow the commissioner of education to direct excess Foundation School Program (FSP) funds to a state school safety fund to reimburse schools for implementing school safety plans, and HJR 170, which would ask voters to amend the state constitution to create a permanent state school safety fund.

HB 4406 would allow the commissioner to dedicate up to 100% of excess PSF funding and cap annual grants at $250 million. ATPE submitted testimony suggesting a cap on excess PSF funding, which last budget cycle totaled more than $8.2 billion.

The committee heard several other bills related to school safety and has become a clearinghouse for related legislation this session. School safety legislation has been identified by leadership in both the House and Senate, as well as the governor, as a priority item this session. Thus far both chambers have focused school safety legislation on armed security, physical hardening of school campuses, and mental health services.


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