AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – In the wake of last week’s deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday he will host a series of roundtable sessions, beginning Tuesday, to “generate solutions that improve safety and security at Texas schools and in our communities.”
The roundtables will include people from across the state, including parents, teachers, students, lawmakers and interest groups that advocate for and against new gun regulations, the Governor’s Office said in a news release.
The roundtables will also include opinions from school administrators that allow the arming of teachers and those that do not, as well as experts on matters of school safety, mental health, law enforcement, bullying and more.
Victims, teachers and family members from Santa Fe, Sutherland Springs, Alpine and Italy, Texas are also being invited to participate in a roundtable discussion later this week, as they, too have endured mass shootings.
The first roundtable is Tuesday, May 22 at the Texas Capitol at 1:30 p.m. in the Governor’s Public Reception Room. DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is among those scheduled to be there.
So is Garland ISD superintendent Dr. Ricardo Lopez. His district spans three cities and coordinates security with three different law enforcement agencies.
“We have such a great partnership with all three,” said Dr. Lopez.
The superintendent says he plans to go into tomorrow’s meeting with an open mind.
The meeting will include Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Strauss, the heads of the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Education Agency, “to open dialogue with a diverse set of people from all walks of Texas is a great step forward,” he said.
Lt Governor Dan Patrick’s suggestion Friday to redesign schools, limiting entrances and exits, appears similar to what Garland ISD is already doing, constructing enclosed entryways to screen all campus visitors.
Lopez, though, says he has questions.
“I would like to hear if there’s a better way of doing it, how they plan on doing it with existing schools. Is this going to be a new mandate for future construction?”
He’s optimistic the meeting will uncover common ground, but every idea, he says, will spark some controversy.
“I think they’re all controversial. Because everything costs money, and everybody’s going to ask where they money’s coming from,” he said.
Members of the public interested in sharing their opinion on how to improve school safety can click here.
Organizers will seek input from education and law enforcement leaders on how to improve security in Texas school districts, as well as strategies that benefit our communities. Participants will include administrators from school districts that participate in the School Marshal Program, as well as administrators from school districts that partner with local law enforcement.
“I am seeking the best solutions to make our schools more secure and to keep our communities safe,” said Governor Abbott. “I look forward to hearing from all sides of the debate, and from expert perspectives on these issues. Working together, we can ensure a safe learning environment for students and safer communities for all Texans.”
Additional roundtables will be held on Wednesday, May 23 and Thursday, May 24 at the Texas Capitol.
The complete list of attendees for Tuesday’s roundtable includes:
Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas
Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
John Whitmire, Texas State Senator (D-Houston), Chair, Senate Criminal Justice Committee
Joan Huffman, Texas State Senator (R-Houston), Chair, Senate State Affairs Committee
Phil King, Texas House of Representatives (R-Weatherford), Chair, House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee
Harold Dutton, Texas House of Representatives (D-Houston), Chair, House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee
Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety
Mike Morath, Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency
Chief Allen Banks, Round Rock Police Department – Currently working with local leaders to establish an ISD police department
Craig Bessent, Wylie ISD Assistant Superintendent – School district actively employs the Texas School Marshal Program
J. Pete Blair, Executive Director of Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center based at Texas State University
Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Dallas ISD Superintendent – Will provide insight into the safety and security challenges at one of the largest districts in the state
Dr. Ricardo Lopez, Garland ISD Superintendent – School district works with local law enforcement to protect schools
Cindy Marble, Former Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Secret Service Houston Field Office – Expert on campus threat assessment
Kathy Martinez-Prather, Director of the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University
Marcus Nelson, Waco ISD Superintendent – Will provide perspective on region-specific safety challenges based on his experiences with ISDs across the state
Joe Palacios, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD Director of Safety and Security – Will provide perspective on the unique security challenges that schools along the border face
Jeff Potter, FAIA, Architect – Will lend expertise on school design
Cecilia “Cissy” Reynolds-Perez, Texas School Safety Center Board member and Ray High School Principal
Jack Roady, Criminal District Attorney for Galveston County
Candace Stolz, Director of Emergency Management for the Texas Education Agency
Phillip Taylor, Hays County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant – Will speak on the school shooting response plan implemented by Hays County
Kim Vickers, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Executive Director – Oversees the Texas School Marshal Program