DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Governor Greg Abbott announced his new policy to address school safety in the wake of this month’s shooting massacre at Santa Fe High School, outside of Houston.
Speaking from the Dallas Independent School District’s headquarters, Abbott said he wants to arm teachers and put requirements on parents to keep guns away from children 17 and younger. He also recommended a law to remove students who threaten teachers or students. But Abbott was quick to remind that his stance on the Second Amendment remains unwavering.
“I can assure you I will never allow second amendment rights to be infringed,” Abbott said. “But, I will always promote responsible gun ownership. That includes keeping guns safe, and keeping them out of the hands of criminals.”
The new plan, which includes more than $120 million in funding strategies to help schools implement them, is the result of three days of round table discussions held in Austin last week. It calls for reducing the number of entrances and controlling exits at schools, among many other things. Abbott said schools need active shooter alarm systems that work differently than fire alarms to prevent confusion.
“The money is coming from federal grants coming in over the next few weeks, gubernatorial grant programs currently on my desk and from the Health and Human Services Commission,” said Abbott.
He also recommended the state offers matching grants of $10K per campus to increase the number of school marshals on-campus at no extra cost to the schools.
Abbott invited school officials from some of the biggest districts in Texas to look for ways to make their campuses safer for their students.
“Everybody in this process and everyone in the state of Texas doesn’t want to see our children hurt. We want action to prevent another shooting,” he said.
Law enforcement officials from Collin County and superintendents from Dallas and Garland were among those included in the discussions. Also in attendance were victims from the Santa Fe High School shooting, who left a profound impression on the governor.
“No one provided a more powerful voice than the victims themselves,” said Abbott. “Their hearts ache. Their minds are troubled. But their souls are resilient.”
In addition to: arming teachers, adding law enforcement presence on-campus, adding metal detectors, developing new campus layouts for future school buildings, hiring counselors who can work with at-risk children, rewarding students who share information about threats, and mandating parent training to increase parental accountability — the 40 page plan addresses the mental health aspect of the issue.
Abbott recommended $20 million to expand the “Twitter Program” and “I Watch Texas” app for students to report their friends.
“Texas will expand a program that uses mental health screenings to identify students at risk of committing violence. And then connects them with professionals for counseling. It is used currently at 10 independent school districts with great success,” Abbott said.
“I want to thank Governor Abbott for presenting a plan that begins to address many of the concerns and ideas raised during last week’s roundtable discussions,” Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said. “It’s critically important that students and parents know when they return to school in August that schools are significantly safer and less vulnerable to a shooting tragedy, and today the state has taken the first steps toward giving them that assurance. However, there is much more work to be done before schools reconvene. The House will work closely this summer with educators, state agencies, parents and law enforcement to make sure that immediate steps are taken to prevent another shooting. Further action will be required when the Legislature meets again, and I want to make sure that the Texas House is ready to act on issues related to campus security, gun safety and behavioral health.”
Ten people were killed and 13 others were wounded during the shooting at Sant Fe High School less than two weeks ago. Students at the campus returned to classes for the first time on Tuesday since 10 people there were killed and 13 others were wounded. Abbott spoke to those students on Tuesday, ahead of his policy announcement.
Some students said that they do not mind metal detectors, but arming teachers makes them uncomfortable.
“Officers are trained, that’s their job,” one student said. “Teachers did not sign up to have a gun in their classroom.”
“I do not feel safe around guns,” another student added. “If there is more, that’s more for a teenager to be able to access.”
Students from Santa Fe and Houston are drafting their own legislation, which includes evacuation drills. They said that the lockdowns are not working. “You turn your lights off, lock the door,” explained student Marcelo Clinton. “What’s wrong with that is the shooter comes into your classroom, sprays you all at once with bullets and you are all dead — no chance for you to live.”